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NEONATICIDE, INFANTICIDE AND FILICIDE

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Abstract

Neonaticide, infanticide, and filicide are painful problems that may confront any society. What is the history of these brutal behaviors? Who are the perpetrators? What are the motives? What are risk factors? Are these behaviors prevalent in contemporary times? What are prevention measures? Biblical texts were examined and verses which describe neonaticide are studied closely from a contemporary viewpoint. Infanticide and filicide are also examined.
NEONATICIDE, INFANTICIDE
AND FILICIDE
Unique Medical Research in Biblical Times from the
Viewpoint of Contemporary Perspective
Examination of Passages from the Bible, Exactly as Written
Medea kills her sons.
Eugène Ferdinand Victor Delacroix. 1862.
Liubov Ben-Nun, M.D., M.S.
Professor Emeritus at Ben Gurion University of the Negev,
Faculty of Health Sciences, Beer-Sheva, Israel.
NOT FOR SALE
NEONATICIDE, INFANTICIDE AND FILICIDE
Neonaticide, infanticide, and filicide are painful problems that
may confront any society. What is the history of these brutal
behaviors? Who are the perpetrators? What are the motives? What
are risk factors? Are these behaviors prevalent in contemporary
times? What are prevention measures?
Biblical texts were examined and verses which describe
neonaticide are studied closely from a contemporary viewpoint.
Infanticide and filicide are also examined.
86th Book
B.N. Publication House. Israel. 2017.
E-Mail: L-bennun@smile.net.il
Technical Assistance: Ilana Siskal
All rights reserved
NOT FOR SALE
CONTENTS
FOREWORD
4
INTRODUCTION
7
DEFINITIONS
10
THE BIBLICAL STORY
10
HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
11
CLASSIFICATION
29
EPIDEMIOLOGY
32
RISK FACTORS
42
CHILD ABUSE/DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
42
ECONOMIC
42
CHASING SPIRITS
44
DENIAL/ CONCEALMENT OF PREGNANCY
45
PSYCHOLOGICAL
49
MENTAL DISORDERS
51
SEX SELECTION
58
TYPES OF FILICIDE
66
MATERNAL
66
PATERNAL
72
MATERNAL VERSUS PATERNAL
75
INVOLVEMENT OF STEPPARENTS
77
LAWS ON INFANTICIDE
78
PREVENTION
83
SUMMARY
91
ABBREVIATIONS
96
4
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
FOREWORD
Infanticide has been known from the oldest historical times to the
present and is found in every culture. Infanticide victims are usually
"superfluous" children whose mother is very poor or without rights;
such children are usually girls. Infanticide is epidemic in times of a
famine or great increases in population. Throughout history
institutions have been founded to care for unwanted children, but
such institutions employed wet nurses, who in turn practiced
infanticide for the profit available in selling their milk. In this way,
strong interrelationships develop between prostitution, wet nursing,
and infanticide. Infanticide is one form of a type of violence which is
directed against those who are not considered full human equals (1).
A relationship between disturbed hormonal and metabolic
equilibrium during puerperium and ensuing mental and emotional
imbalance has been postulated for a long time. In England and Wales
this consideration has resulted in the crime of infanticide being
reduced from murder to manslaughter. Data indicate that the
therapeutic and even routine administration by physicians of
powerful vasoactive agents during puerperium, and particularly that
of ergot derivatives, is probably the most frequent factor leading to
'pure puerperal psychosis'. This psychosis is in fact, in most
instances, a form of ergotism and its signs, symptoms and
consequences, including coincidental infanticide, are actually
manifestations of acute ergot poisoning (2).
The subject of infanticide is met with complex reactions.
Paradoxically, the very same society that practices gender selection
may also prosecute a mother for killing an infant. Using the case of
Andrea Yates, the outcome of an infanticide case in American Judicial
System in which a floridly psychotic mother serves a life in prison is
illustrated. Contemporary worldwide experiences of infanticide are
explored and culture specific attitudes towards causes, facilitation,
and punishment of this tragic cause of infant mortality are
investigated. The intricate relationship between a society's
construction of parenthood and mothering is illustrated, and its
experience of infanticide is evaluated. Infanticide is deeply
embedded in, and responsive to the societies in which it occurs.
Causes vary from poverty to stigma, dowry and insanity. The
worldwide experience of infant murder reaches from facilitation of
5
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
gender determination in China and Asia to lethal execution of
mothers as perpetrators in the United States. Infanticide must be
viewed against the political, cultural, social and legal backgrounds of
societies that treat women with disregard. It is a reflection of social
and cultural norms governing motherhood, a constant that links
these seemingly disparate acts. The overall association of infanticide
with crime, postpartum illness, population and sex selection speaks
to unjust discrimination against women and children. We as a world
society can do a far better job of protecting motherhood (3).
The parental killing of children constitutes a complex
phenomenon which has been reported across numerous cultures and
throughout history. Children in the 1st year of life are at the highest
risk of filicide. Types of filicide in the postpartum period include
altruistic filicide, extended suicide, fatal child maltreatment, and
neonaticide. Babies are murdered more frequently by mothers who
are psychiatrically disturbed. High frequency, depressive and
psychotic symptoms are related to the newborn or to the maternity
itself. The knowledge about maternal factors associated with filicide
is not homogeneous. Sociodemographic characteristics are
presented in relation to the different types of filicide. There are risk
constellations that may lead to a child's murder (4).
Filicide, the murder of a child by a parent, is a multifaceted
phenomenon with various causes and characteristics. The review of
the existing literature delineates the state of knowledge regarding
filicide and illustrates similarities and differences between offenses
perpetrated by mothers and by fathers. The importance of
numerous reports of an association between filicide and parental
pre-existing psychiatric disorders is compounded by indications that a
significant number of homicidal parents come to the attention of
psychiatrists or other health professionals before the offense occurs.
As prevention implies the recognition of causes involved in particular
situations, a better understanding of potentially fatal
parental/familial dynamics leading to filicide could facilitate the
identification of risk and enable effective intervention strategies (5).
Drawing on ethnographic research conducted in the Indian
Himalayas, infanticide is a form of reproductive disruption that elicits
both public moral judgments and private silences. In this Himalayan
context, the stigmas of abortion and premarital sex prevent
community acknowledgement of infanticide and baby abandonment.
6
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
Unmarried women hide their pregnancies, deliver and abandon their
babies, and later are rushed to the hospital with postdelivery
complications. While biomedical doctors deal with the debris of
infanticide (postpartum hemorrhage), there is no formal accounting
of the practice. By regarding infanticide as a form of reproductive
disruption, women's narratives of pain and suffering are silenced
because of moral repugnance (6).
Filicide is a complicated and multi factorial crime. Given its
complex nature, it is difficult to establish traits that consistently apply
to its perpetrators and victims. However, through careful evaluation
of the existing literature, certain trends can be identified. Mothers
and fathers who commit filicide are, on average, in their late 20s and
typically do so with equal frequency. This differs remarkably from
neonaticide, which is almost always committed by young mothers.
About 35% of filicides committed by both mothers and fathers are
associated with suicide attempts. Filicidal men and women are often
socially isolated and unemployed. Mothers may have a personal
history of abuse, whereas men are more likely to attempt to kill their
spouse in addition to their child. Neonaticidal mothers often deny or
conceal their pregnancies and usually are not mentally ill, thus they
generally avoid contact with medical professionals (7).
References
1. Piers MW. Infanticide - a historical review. Psyche (Stuttg). 1976;30(5):418-
35.
2. Iffy L, Jakobovits A. Infanticide: new medical considerations. Med Law.
1992;11(3-4):269-74.
3. Spinelli MG. Infanticide: contrasting views. Arch Womens Ment Health.
2005;8(1):15-24.
4. Trautmann-Villalba P, Hornstein C. Children murdered by their mothers in the
postpartum period. Nervenarzt. 2007;78(11):1290-5.
5. Bourget D, Grace J, Whitehurst L. A review of maternal and paternal filicide. J
Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2007;35(1):74-82.
6. Aengst J. Silences and moral narratives: infanticide as reproductive
disruption. Med Anthropol. 2014;33(5):411-27.
7. Sara G. West. An Overview of Filicide. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2007 Feb; 4(2):
4857.
7
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
INTRODUCTION
Infanticide, like most other species of homicide, is probably coeval
with the human race itself. In modern Western civilization, what
were formerly the most powerful incentives to infanticide have
virtually disappeared. As with other social problems that affluence
has seemed to solve, however, infanticide has reappeared in a new
form that seems to have been made possible by affluence itself. The
"new infanticide" occurs in a place whose very existence is the result
of a tremendously wealthy society's devotion to its most vulnerable
and least "useful" members. The modern neonatal intensive care
unit, which treats, and often saves, extremely ill newborn children,
who during most of history would surely have died, has proven to be
a setting where many of the age-old incentives for infanticide have
begun to operate again. The "new infanticide" consists of
withholding food or needed medical treatment from selected infants
who suffer from one or more serious, though treatable, medical
problems. The national government has now enacted legislation
designed to curtail the practice of infanticide by the medical
profession (1).
In cooperation with the Crime Investigation Agency
(Landeskriminalamt) of North Rhine-Westphalia, 150 cases of
(suspected) neonaticide dating from 1993 to 2007 from all over
Germany were investigated. The autopsy reports and additional
expert opinions (if performed) were evaluated for a minimum of 78
variables. Emphasis was placed on the application of special
preparation techniques and other special questions arising during the
examination of a deceased newborn child. Of the cases, 45%
remained unsolved, which means that the mother could not be
identified. Of the corpses, 27% were in a state of such severe
putrefaction that forensic examination was limited. The main causes
of death were all forms of suffocation. The signs of maturity (such as
length, weight, and fingernails) were recorded in more than 95% of
the cases. Hydrostatic test of the lung was performed in 96%, and
that of the gastrointestinal tract in 84%. Given the results of the
study, standard protocols and checklists are recommended to
facilitate comparability and to ensure the completeness of findings.
Full-body X-rays or CT scans should be used to complete viability
examinations (2).
8
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
Using data gathered at the Institut Philippe Pinel in Montréal, the
sociodemographic and psychiatric profile of a sample of 17 women
who have killed (n=14) or attempted to kill (n=3) one of their children
are described. Women who have committed this type of offence
generally come from a disadvantaged socioeconomic environment.
Most have a psychiatric history (evaluation and/or hospitalization).
Most women do not use a weapon to kill their child; the preferred
methods are strangulation or drowning. Most of these offences can
be classified as extended suicide or altruistic acts. Several of the
women present with a severe personality disorder and an additional
depressive episode in the context of the offence. The data will help
clarify understanding of filicide and assist in the development of
certain prevention axes. The results indicate that the population at
large and various interveners in the society (family physicians,
psychiatrists, criminologists, social workers, pediatricians,
psychologists, and gynecologists) must become increasingly vigilant
and avoid trivialization of signals such as verbalization of homicidal
thoughts about the child or recourse to disorganized behaviors (3).
The decline in the incidence of SIDS and recent recommendations
regarding the differentiation of SIDS and child abuse has generated
speculation that some cases of infanticide were misdiagnosed as
SIDS. The change in incidences and proportions of post neonatal
deaths from all causes, SIDS, and infanticide in California were
determined over an 18-year interval encompassing years before and
after the Back to Sleep campaign. Selected post neonatal mortality
data from 1981 through 1998 obtained from the California
Department of Health Services were analyzed and graphically
displayed. The total post neonatal mortality and incidence of SIDS
deaths per 100,000 live births decreased 45% and 66%, respectively,
during the study interval; the incidence of infanticide remained low.
The ratio of infanticide to SIDS increased from 4.3 per 100 in 1981 to
10.2 per 100 in 1998. Infanticide deaths, as a percentage of the total
number of post neonatal deaths, increased slightly from the first to
the second half of the study interval but never rose above 3.2%. This
increased percentage is due to a decrease in SIDS deaths and not to
an actual increase in infanticide deaths (4).
The prevailing public view on women who kill their babies is that
they are either monsters or psychotic, or both. The psychiatric and
legal communities recognize that the issue is not as simply
9
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
dichotomous as this. Evidence suggests that there are important
distinctions to be drawn between different types of baby deaths and
that this may have implications for identification, punishment, and/or
treatment of potential and actual perpetrators. Research, incidence
statistics, and judicial and clinical outcomes range over four decades
of work and sets out various ways forward prevention of infant
murder (5).
Neonaticide, infanticide, and filicide are painful problems that
may confront any society. What is the history of these brutal
behaviors? Who are the perpetrators? What are the motives? What
are risk factors? Are these behaviors prevalent in contemporary
times? What are prevention measures?
Biblical texts were examined and verses which describe
neonaticide are studied closely from a contemporary viewpoint.
Infanticide and filicide are also examined.
References
1. Lund N. Infanticide, physicians, and the law: the "Baby Doe" amendments to
the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. Am J Law Med. 1985;11(1):1-29.
2. Schulte B, Rothschild MA, Vennemann M, Banaschak S. Examination of
(suspected) neonaticides in Germany: a critical report on a comparative study. Int J
Legal Med. 2013;127(3):621-5.
3. Marleau JD, Roy R, Laporte L, et al. Infanticide committed by the mother. Can
J Psychiatry. 1995;40(3):142-9.
4. Krous HF, Nadeau JM, Silva PD, Byard RW. Infanticide: is its incidence among
postneonatal infant deaths increasing?: an 18-year population-based analysis in
California. Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2002;23(2):127-31.
5. Porter T, Gavin H. Infanticide and neonaticide: a review of 40 years of
research literature on incidence and causes. Trauma Violence Abuse. 2010;
11(3):99-112.
10
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
DEFINITIONS
The term neonaticide describes the act of killing a newborn child
by a parent (mostly by the mother) within 24 hours after birth (1).
Infanticide is the act of killing an infant, or the practice in some
societies of killing unwanted newborn babies (2), or child homicide
within the 1st year of life (3).
Filicide is the killing of a child by his or her parent (4).
References
1. Schöne M, Peter E, Dobrowolny H, Bogerts B. Neonaticide: a classification of
female perpetrators in an east-west comparison. Nervenarzt. 2015;86(5):595-602.
2. The Penguin English Dictionary. Robert Allen. Consultant ed. 2nd ed.
Penguin Books. England. 2003.
3. Nesca M, Dalby JT. Maternal neonaticide following traumatic childbirth: a
case study. Int J Offender Ther Comp Criminol. 2011;55(7):1166-78.
4. Guileyardo JM, Prahlow JA, Barnard JJ. Familial filicide and filicide
classification. Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 1999;20(3):28692.
THE BIBLICAL STORY
A
At
t
t
th
he
e
t
ti
im
me
e
w
wh
he
en
n
H
He
eb
br
re
ew
w
w
we
er
re
e
s
sl
la
av
ve
es
s
i
in
n
E
Eg
gy
yp
pt
t,
,
t
th
he
ey
y
s
su
uf
ff
fe
er
re
ed
d
f
fr
ro
om
m
v
va
ar
ri
io
ou
us
s
c
cr
ru
ue
el
l
d
de
ec
cr
re
ee
es
s
o
of
f
P
Ph
ha
ar
ra
ao
oh
h.
.
O
On
ne
e
s
su
uc
ch
h
d
de
ec
cr
re
ee
e
w
wa
as
s
t
th
ha
at
t
e
ev
ve
er
ry
y
n
ne
ew
wb
bo
or
rn
n
H
He
eb
br
re
ew
w
m
ma
al
le
e
s
sh
ho
ou
ul
ld
d
b
be
e
k
ki
il
ll
le
ed
d
b
by
y
m
mi
id
dw
wi
iv
ve
es
s:
:
.
..
.t
th
he
e
k
ki
in
ng
g
o
of
f
E
Eg
gy
yp
pt
t
s
sp
pa
ak
ke
e
t
to
o
t
th
he
e
H
He
eb
br
re
ew
w
m
mi
id
dw
wi
iv
ve
es
s,
,
t
th
he
e
n
na
am
me
e
o
of
f
t
th
he
e
o
on
ne
e
w
wa
as
s
S
Sh
hi
ip
ph
hr
ra
ah
h,
,
a
an
nd
d
t
th
he
e
n
na
am
me
e
o
of
f
t
th
he
e
o
ot
th
he
er
r
P
Pu
ua
ah
h.
.
I
If
f
i
it
t
b
be
e
a
a
s
so
on
n,
,
t
th
he
en
n
y
yo
ou
u
s
sh
ha
al
ll
l
k
ki
il
ll
l
h
hi
im
m:
:
b
bu
ut
t
i
if
f
i
it
t
b
be
e
a
a
d
da
au
ug
gh
ht
te
er
r,
,
t
th
he
en
n
s
sh
he
e
s
sh
ha
al
ll
l
l
li
iv
ve
e.
.
B
Bu
ut
t
t
th
he
e
m
mi
id
dw
wi
iv
ve
es
s
.
.s
sa
av
ve
ed
d
t
th
he
e
m
me
en
n
c
ch
hi
il
ld
dr
re
en
n
a
al
li
iv
ve
e
(
(E
Ex
xo
od
du
us
s
1
1:
:1
15
5-
-1
17
7)
).
.
M
Mi
id
dw
wi
iv
ve
es
s
o
op
pp
po
os
se
ed
d
P
Ph
ha
ar
ra
ao
oh
h'
's
s
c
cr
ru
ue
el
l
d
de
ec
cr
re
ee
e
w
wi
it
th
h
a
an
n
o
of
ff
fi
ic
ci
ia
al
l
e
ex
xp
pl
la
an
na
at
ti
io
on
n
o
of
f
t
th
he
ei
ir
r
v
vi
ie
ew
w:
:
"
"B
Be
ec
ca
au
us
se
e
t
th
he
e
H
He
eb
br
re
ew
w
w
wo
om
me
en
n
a
ar
re
e
n
no
ot
t
a
as
s
t
th
he
e
E
Eg
gy
yp
pt
ti
ia
an
n
w
wo
om
me
en
n;
;
f
fo
or
r
t
th
he
ey
y
a
ar
re
e
l
li
iv
ve
el
ly
y,
,
a
an
nd
d
a
ar
re
e
d
de
el
li
iv
ve
er
re
ed
d
b
be
ef
fo
or
re
e
t
th
he
e
m
mi
id
dw
wi
iv
ve
es
s
c
co
om
me
e
t
to
o
t
th
he
em
m"
"
(
(1
1:
:1
19
9)
).
.
T
Th
he
es
se
e
v
ve
er
rs
se
es
s
i
in
nd
di
ic
ca
at
te
e
i
in
nf
fa
an
nt
ti
ic
ci
id
de
e/
/n
ne
eo
on
na
at
ti
ic
ci
id
de
e
i
in
n
B
Bi
ib
bl
li
ic
ca
al
l
t
ti
im
me
es
s.
.
I
In
n
t
th
he
ei
ir
r
c
co
on
nf
fr
ro
on
nt
ta
at
ti
io
on
n
w
wi
it
th
h
P
Ph
ha
ar
ra
ao
oh
h
o
ov
ve
er
r
h
hi
is
s
w
wi
ic
ck
ke
ed
d
d
de
ec
cr
re
ee
e,
,
t
th
he
e
m
mi
id
dw
wi
iv
ve
es
s
t
to
oo
ok
k
a
a
b
br
ra
av
ve
e
d
de
ec
ci
is
si
io
on
n
a
an
nd
d
c
co
on
nt
ti
in
nu
ue
ed
d
t
to
o
d
de
el
li
iv
ve
er
r
a
an
nd
d
s
sa
av
ve
e
H
He
eb
br
re
ew
w
m
ma
al
le
e
n
ne
ew
wb
bo
or
rn
ns
s.
.
H
He
er
re
e
i
is
s
a
an
n
e
ex
xa
am
mp
pl
le
e
o
of
f
g
gr
re
ea
at
t
c
co
ou
ur
ra
ag
ge
e,
,
p
pr
ro
ob
ba
ab
bl
ly
y
e
ev
ve
en
n
r
ri
is
sk
ki
in
ng
g
t
th
he
ei
ir
r
l
li
iv
ve
es
s
t
to
o
o
op
pp
po
os
se
e
P
Ph
ha
ar
ra
ao
oh
h'
's
s
i
in
nh
hu
um
ma
an
ne
e
d
de
ec
ci
is
si
io
on
n.
.
11
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
The practice of infanticide has taken many forms over time. Child
sacrifice to supernatural figures or forces, such as have been
practiced in ancient Carthage, possibly is only the most notorious
example in the ancient world. Anthropologist Laila Williamson notes
that "Infanticide has been practiced on every continent and by
people on every level of cultural complexity, from hunter gatherers
to high civilizations, including our own ancestors. Rather than being
an exception then, it has been the rule" (1).
Carthaginians, descendants of the Phoenicians, sacrificed infants
to their gods. Charred bones of hundreds of infants were found in
Carthaginian archaeological sites. One such area harbored as many
as 20,000 burial urns (2). Skeptics suggest that the bodies of children
found in Carthaginian and Phoenician cemeteries were merely the
cremated remains of children that died naturally (3).
A frequent method of infanticide in ancient Europe and Asia was
simply to abandon the infant, leaving him/her to die by exposure (i.e.
hypothermia, hunger, thirst, or animal attack) (4).
In at least one island in Oceania, infanticide was carried out until
the 20th century by suffocating the infant, while in pre-Columbian
Mesoamerica and in the Inca Empire by sacrifice (5).
Many Neolithic groups routinely resorted to infanticide in order to
control their numbers so that their lands could support them.
Infanticide rates in prehistoric times ranged between 15%-20% (1)
and 15%-50% of the total number of births (6). These high rates of
infanticide persisted until the development of agriculture during the
Neolithic Revolution (7). Of female newborn babies, 50% were killed
by their parents during the Paleolithic era (8). Decapitated skeletons
of hominid children have been found with evidence of cannibalism
(9). The children were not necessarily actively killed, but neglect and
intentional malnourishment may have occurred, an explanation for
an apparent surplus of men and the below average height of women
in prehistoric Menorca (10).
Marvin Harris estimated that among Paleolithic hunters 23-50% of
newborn children were killed. The goal was to preserve the 0.001%
population growth of that time. Female infanticide possibly was a
form of population control (11). Population control was achieved not
only by limiting the number of potential mothers; increased fighting
12
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
among men for access to relatively scarce wives would also lead to a
decline in population. Thus, on the Melanesian island of Tikopia
infanticide was used to keep a stable population in line with its
resource base (12). Research by Marvin Harris and William Divale
supported this argument; it was an example of environmental
determinism (13).
Archaeologists have uncovered physical evidence of child sacrifice
at several locations (7). Some of the best attested examples are the
diverse rites which were part of the religious practices in
Mesoamerica and the Inca Empire (14-16).
Three thousand bones of young children, with evidence of
sacrificial rituals, have been found in Sardinia. Pelasgians offered a
sacrifice of every tenth child during difficult times. Syrians sacrificed
children to Jupiter and Juno. Many remains of children were found in
Gezer excavations with signs of sacrifice. Child skeletons with the
marks of sacrifice were found in Egypt dating 950-720 BCE. In
Carthage "[child] sacrifice in the ancient world reached its infamous
zenith." Besides the Carthaginians, other Phoenicians, and the
Canaanites, Moabites and Sepharvites offered their first-born as a
sacrifice to their gods (7).
In Egyptian households, at all social levels, children of both sexes
were valued and there is no evidence of infanticide (17). The religion
of the Ancient Egyptians forbade infanticide and during the Greco-
Roman period they rescued abandoned babies from manure heaps, a
common method of infanticide by Greeks or Romans, and were
allowed to either adopt them as foundlings or raise them as slaves,
often giving them names such as "copro -" to memorialize their
rescue (18). Strabo considered it a peculiarity of the Egyptians that
every child must be reared (19). Diodorus indicated that infanticide
was a punishable offence (20) Egypt was heavily dependent on the
annual flooding of the Nile to irrigate the land and in years of low
inundation severe famine could occur with breakdowns in social
order, notably between 930-1070 AD and 1180-1350 AD. Instances
of cannibalism are recorded during these periods but it is unknown if
this happened during the pharaonic era of Ancient Egypt (21).
Beatrix Midant-Reynes describes human sacrifice as having occurred
at Abydos in the early dynastic period (c. 3150-2850 BCE) (22), while
Jan Assmann asserts there is no clear evidence of human sacrifice
ever happening in Ancient Egypt (23).
13
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
Filicide has existed since the dawn of mankind. In ancient Greco-
Roman times, a father was allowed to kill his own child without legal
repercussions (24). Despite the later rise of Christianity and its
greater respect for life, filicides continued, often perpetrated by the
mother, who may have claimed that the child accidentally was
suffocated in bed (25). Reasons for wanting to end the life of a child,
particularly a newborn, included disability, gender, lack of resources
to care for the child, or illegitimacy. These reasons still hold true
today. However, without current systems of documentation,
including records of birth and death, it was far easier to succeed in
completing a filicidal act in earlier times without the knowledge of
authorities, who may have turned the other cheek regardless of the
laws in order to strike a balance between population growth and
resources available in impoverished areas (26).
In Roman history, it was traditional for a newborn to be brought
to the Pater familias, the family patriarch, who would then decide
whether the child was to be kept and raised or left to die by
exposure. The Twelve Tables of Roman law obliged him to put to
death a child that was visibly deformed. The concurrent practices of
slavery and infanticide contributed to the "background noise" of the
crises during the Republic (27).
Greeks considered the practice of adult and child sacrifice
barbarous (28), however, the exposure of newborns was widely
practiced in ancient Greece, it was even advocated by Aristotle in the
case of congenital deformity "As to the exposure of children, let
   (29). To notify the
neighbors of a birth of a child, a woolen strip was hung over the front
door to indicate a female baby and an olive branch to indicate a boy
had been born. Families did not always keep their new child. After a
woman had a baby, she would show it to her husband. If the
husband accepted it, it would live, but if he refused, it would die.
Babies would often be rejected if they were illegitimate, unhealthy or
deformed, the wrong sex, or too great a burden on the family. These
babies would not be directly killed, but put in a clay pot or jar and
deserted outside the front door or on the roadway. In ancient Greek
religion, this practice took the responsibility away from the parents
because the child would die of natural causes, such as hunger,
asphyxiation or exposure (26).
14
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
In his book Germania, Tacitus wrote that the ancient Germanic
tribes enforced a similar prohibition. He found such mores
remarkable and commented: "The Germani hold it shameful to kill
any unwanted child." Modern scholarship differs. John Boswell
believed that in ancient Germanic tribes unwanted children were
exposed, usually in the forest. "It was the custom of the [Teutonic]
pagans, that if they wanted to kill a son or daughter, they would be
killed before they had been given any food" (30). Usually children
born out of wedlock were disposed that way (26).
Christianity rejects infanticide. The Teachings of the Apostles or
Didache said "You shall not kill that which is born" (31). The Epistle
of Barnabas stated an identical command (32). Apologists Tertullian,
Athenagoras, Minucius Felix, Justin Martyr and Lactantius also
maintained that exposing a baby to death was a wicked act (33). In
318 AD, Constantine considered infanticide a crime, and in 374 AD,
Valentinian mandated the rearing of all children (exposing babies,
especially girls, was still common). The Council of Constantinople
declared that infanticide was homicide, and in 589 AD, the Third
Council of Toledo took measures against the custom of killing their
own children (34).
MIDDLE AGES. Theologians and clerics preached sparing their
lives, newborn abandonment continued as registered in both the
literature record and in legal documents (35). Exposure "was
practiced on gigantic scale with absolute impunity, with most frigid
indifference" (36). At the end of the 12th century, Roman women
threw their newborns into the Tiber River in daylight (37).
Unlike other European regions, in the Middle Ages the German
mothers had the right to expose the newborn (38). In Gotland,
Sweden, children were also sacrificed (39).
MODERN PERIOD. Filicide (the killing of a child by a parent)
followed by the offender's suicide is a tragic but, fortunately, rare
event. The contexts and circumstances surrounding filicide-suicide
may provide insight into parental psychology. Several hypotheses
about filicide-suicide were tested using a database including incident-
level information on 11,018 Chicago homicides during 1870-1930.
15
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
The results provide some support for the hypothesis of differential
risk of suicide following filicide by genetic parents and stepparents
and replicate previous research indicating that filicides with multiple
victims are more likely to end in the offender's suicide than filicides
with a single victim; parents are more likely to commit suicide
following the filicide of an older child than of a younger child; and
older parents, relative to younger parents, are more likely to commit
suicide following filicide (40).
BRITAIN. Instances of infanticide in Britain in 18th and 19th
century are often attributed to the economic position of the women,
with juries committing pious perjury in many subsequent murder
cases. The knowledge of the difficulties faced in the 18th century by
those women who attempted to keep their children can be seen as
reason for juries to show compassion. If the woman chose to keep
the child, society was not set up to ease the pressure placed upon the
woman, legally, socially or economically (41).
In mid-18th century there was assistance in Britain available for
women who were not able to raise their children. The Foundling
Hospital opened in 1756 and was able to take in some of the
illegitimate children. However, the conditions within the hospital
caused Parliament to withdraw funding and the governors to live off
their own incomes (42). This resulted in a stringent entrance policy,
with the committee requiring that the hospital: 'Will not receive a
child that is more than a year old, nor the child of a domestic servant,
nor any child whose father can be compelled to maintain it'. Once a
mother had admitted her child to the hospital, the hospital did all it
could to ensure that the parent and child were not re-united (43).
Macfarlane argues in Illegitimates in Britain (1980) that English
society greatly concerned itself with the burden that a bastard child
places upon its communities and had gone to some lengths to ensure
that the father of the child is identified in order to maintain its well-
being (44). Assistance could be gained through maintenance
payments from the father;  miserable
. If the father got into arrears with the payments
 (45).
Despite the accusations of some that women were getting a free
hand-out there is evidence that many women were far from receiving
16
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide

was limited to 1s per week" (45). Sheffield required women to enter
the workhouse, whereas Halifax gave no relief to the women who
required it. The prospect of entering the workhouse was certainly
something to be avoided. Lionel Rose quotes Dr Joseph Rogers in
 Rogers, who was employed by a
London workhouse in 1856 stated that conditions in the nursery were

 (45).
The loss of social standing for a servant girl was a particular
problem in respect of producing a bastard child as they relied upon a
good character reference in order to maintain their job and more
importantly to get a new or better job. In a large number of trials for
the crime of infanticide, it is the servant girl that stood accused (41).
The disadvantage of being a servant girl is that they had to live to the
social standards of their superiors or risk dismissal and no references.
Whereas within other professions, such as in the factory, the
relationship between employer and employee was much more
anonymous and the mother would be better able to make other
provisions, such as employing a minder (45). The result of the lack of
basic social care in Britain in the 18th and 19th century is the
numerous accounts in court records of women, particularly servant
girls, standing trial for the murder of their child (46).
There may have been no specific offence of infanticide in England
before about 1623 because infanticide was a matter for the by
ecclesiastical courts, possibly because infant mortality from natural
causes was high (about 15%, or one in six) (47). Thereafter the
accusation of the suppression of bastard children by lewd mothers
was a crime incurring the presumption of guilt (48).
In English law, the Infanticide Acts had several laws. That of 1922
made the killing of an infant child by its mother during the early
months of life as a lesser crime than murder. The acts of 1938 and
1939 abolished the earlier act, but introduced the idea that
postpartum depression was legally to be regarded as a form of
diminished responsibility (26).
ISLAM. Religious Islam Infanticide is explicitly prohibited by the
Qur'an (49): "And do not kill your children for fear of poverty; We
give them sustenance and yourselves too; surely to kill them is a
17
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
great wrong" (50). Together with polytheism and homicide,
infanticide is regarded as a grave sin (6:151 and 60:12) (51).
KAMCHATKA. In Kamchatka, Russia, babies were killed and
thrown to the dogs (52). Among the Koryaks, a Mongoloid people of
north-eastern Siberia, infanticide was still common in the nineteenth
century. One of a pair of twins was sacrificed (53).
Russian woman leaves her child to wolves.
Charles Michel. Geoffroy. 1845.
GEORGIA. The Svans (an ethnic subgroup of the Georgians living
mostly in Svaneti, a region in northwest Georgia) killed newborn
females by filling their mouths with hot ashes (52).
SOLOMON ISLANDS. Ugi beach people in the Solomon Islands
killed their infants at birth by burying them, while women practiced
abortion. It was too much trouble to raise a child, and instead
preferred to buy one from the bush people (54). Superstition has
always reigned supreme in tribal religion. Diverse customs and
taboos were possible causes of infanticide, from punishment and
shame of poverty, famine, revenge, depression, insanity and
superstitious omens (26).
CHINA. Short of execution, the harshest penalties were imposed
on practitioners of infanticide by the legal codes of the Qin dynasty
and Han dynasty of ancient China (55).
However, Marco Polo, the famed explorer, saw newborns
exposed in Manzi (56). China's society practiced sex selective
18
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
infanticide. Philosopher Han Fei Tzu, a member of the ruling
aristocracy of the 3rd century BC, who developed a school of law,
wrote: "As to children, a father and mother when they produce a boy
congratulate one another, but when they produce a girl they put it to
death" (57). Among the Hakka people, and in Yunnan, Anhui,
Sichuan, Jiangxi and Fujian a method of killing the baby was to put
her into a bucket of cold water, which was called "baby water" (58).
Infanticide was known in China as early as the 3rd century BC,
and, by the time of the Song dynasty (960-1279 AD), it was
widespread in some provinces. Buddhist belief in transmigration
allowed poor residents of the country to kill their newborn children if
they felt unable to care for them, hoping that they would be reborn
in better circumstances. Some Chinese did not consider newborn
children fully "human", and saw "life" beginning at some point after
the sixth month after birth (59).
Chinese infanticide tract. Circa 1800.
Contemporary writers from the Song dynasty note that, in Hubei
and Fujian provinces, residents would only keep three sons and two
daughters (among poor farmers, two sons and one daughter), and kill
all babies beyond that number at birth (60). The sex of the child was
only one factor to consider. By the time of the Ming Dynasty,
however, (13681644), male infanticide was uncommon. The
prevalence of female infanticide remained high much longer. The
magnitude of this practice is subject to some dispute; however, one
quoted estimate is that, by late Qing, between one fifth and one
quarter of all newborn girls, across the entire social spectrum, was
victims of infanticide. If one includes excess mortality among female
children under 10 (ascribed to gender-differential neglect), the share
of victims rises to one third (59,61).
19
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
Burying Babies in China (March 1865, XXII) (62).
JAPAN. Since feudal Japan the common slang for infanticide was
"mabiki" which means to pull plants from an overcrowded garden. A
typical method in Japan was smothering through wet paper on the
baby's mouth and nose (63). Mabiki persisted in the 19th century
and early 20th century (64). To bear twins was perceived as
barbarous and unlucky and efforts were made to hide or kill one or
both twins (65).
INDIA. In India, infanticide of newborn girls was systematic in
feudatory Rajputs for illegitimate female children during the Middle
Ages. According to Firishta, as soon as the illegitimate female child
was born she was held "in one hand, and a knife in the other, that
any person who wanted a wife might take her now, otherwise she
was immediately put to death" (66).
Hindu Woman carrying her child to be drowned in the River Ganges
at Bengal (1852) (68).
20
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
The practice of female infanticide was also common among the
Kutch, Kehtri, Nagar, Bengal, Miazed, Kalowries in India inhabitants,
and among the Sindh in British India (67).
Parents threw a child to the sharks in the Ganges River as a
sacrificial offering. The British colonists were unable to outlaw the
custom until the beginnings of the 19th century (69).
Hindoo Mother sacrificing her infant. November 1853, X, p.120 (70).
VIRGINIA. The Civil War and Reconstruction and the South's
postbellum industrialization produced economic dislocation on a
tremendous scale. One product of that economic upheaval was an
increasing problem of infanticides and infant abandonments.
Patterns of abandonment and neonaticide as documented in records
of the Richmond, Virginia, almshouse and the city coroner were
examined. It demonstrates that race shaped the options available to
women with problem pregnancies in that African American women
had access to fewer social welfare institutions such as maternity
homes. As a result, unmarried black women kept their out-of-
wedlock babies more often than did whites, but they also committed
infanticide at higher rates than did whites. Moreover, racial trends in
infanticides and infant abandonment suggest that Ricomond's white
working class experienced economic advancements at the turn of the
twentieth century, while the city's black working class continued to
live in depression-like conditions throughout the period (71).
21
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
AFRICA. In African societies, some neonates were killed because
of beliefs in evil omens or because they were considered unlucky.
Twins were usually put to death in Arebo; as well as by the Nama
Hottentots of South West Africa; in the Lake Victoria Nyanza region;
by the Tswana in Portuguese East Africa; in some parts of Igboland,
Nigeria twins were sometimes abandoned in a forest at birth, often
one twin was killed or hidden by midwives of wealthier mothers; and
by the Kung people of the Kalahari Desert (72). The Kikuyu, Kenya's
most populous ethnic group, practiced ritual killing of twins (73).
AUSTRALIA. Infanticide occurred commonly amongst Indigenous
Australians, in all areas of Australia prior to European settlement.
Infanticide may have continued to occur quite often up until the
1960s. An 1866 issue of 'The Australian News for Home Readers'
informed readers that "the crime of infanticide is so prevalent
amongst the natives that it is rare to see an infant" (74).
Accounts of Aboriginal violence, including infanticide, was
censored by publishers in the 1980s and 1990s. The censorship
"stemmed from guilt over the stolen children question". This type of
censorship started in the 1970s. Infanticide in customary Aboriginal
law may have been because it was difficult to keep an abundant
number of Aboriginal children alive; there was life-and-death
decisions modern-day Australians no longer have to face (75).
According to William D. Rubinstein, "Nineteenth-century
European observers of Aboriginal life in South Australia and Victoria
reported that about 30% of Aboriginal infants were killed at birth"
(76). James Dawson wrote a passage about infanticide amongst
Indigenous people in the western district of Victoria, which stated
that "Twins are as common among them as among Europeans; but as
food is occasionally scarce, and a large family troublesome to move
about, it is lawful and customary to destroy the weakest twin child,
irrespective of sex. It is usual to destroy those which are malformed"
(77).
NORTH AMERICA. In North America, there is no agreement about
the actual estimates of the frequency of newborn female infanticide
in the Inuit population. Carmel Schrire mentions range 15-50% to
22
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
80%. (78). Polar Inuit (Inughuit) killed the child by throwing him or
her into the sea (79).
The Yukon and the Mahlemuit tribes of Alaska exposed the female
newborns by first stuffing their mouths with grass before leaving
them to die (80). In Arctic Canada the Inuit exposed their babies on
the ice and left them to die (81).
Female Inuit infanticide disappeared in the 1930s and 1940s after
contact with the Western cultures from the South (82).
Until recently, certain Eskimo groups were reported to practice
female infanticide in the belief that the time spent suckling a girl
would delay the mother's next opportunity to bear a son, males
being preferred to females because of their future role as providers
in a hunting economy. From sex ratios in census data, rates of female
infanticide of up to 66% for some groups have been inferred, leading
to conclude that these groups were headed for extinction. Eskimo
beliefs regarding the effects of infanticide on fertility, however, are in
accord with the results of research on the relation of fertility and
lactation: the cessation of lactation following infanticide would
significantly shorten the expected interval until the next birth. Given
this fact and available field data regarding the parameters of Eskimo
population growth, the present computer simulation indicates that
Eskimo populations could sustain a rate of 30% female infanticide
and still survive. Higher reported rates are explained as the
combined result of female infanticide plus the tendency of
ethnographers to overestimate the ages of juvenile females relative
to juvenile males (83).
The Handbook of North American Indians reports infanticide
among the Dene Natives and those of the Mackenzie Mountains
(84,85).
In the Eastern Shoshone there was a scarcity of Indian women as a
result of female infanticide (86). For the Maidu Native Americans
twins were so dangerous that they not only killed them, but the
mother as well (87). In the region known today as southern Texas,
the Mariame Indians practiced infanticide of females on a large scale.
Wives had to be obtained from neighboring groups (88).
23
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
SOUTH AMERICA. Reports on the Aymara Indians reveal high
incidences of mortality among the newborn, especially female
deaths, suggesting infanticide (89). The Abipones, a small tribe of
Guaycuran stock, of about 5,000 by the end of the 18th century in
Paraguay, practiced systematic infanticide; with never more than two
children being reared in one family. The Machigenga killed their
disabled children. Infanticide among the Chaco in Paraguay was
estimated as high as 50% of all newborns in that tribe, who were
usually buried (90). The infanticidal custom had such roots among
the Ayoreo in Bolivia and Paraguay that persisted until the late 20th
century (91).
In Brazil, the Tapirapé indigenous people of Brazil allowed no
more than three children per woman, and no more than two of the
same sex. If the rule was broken infanticide was practiced (92). The
people in the Bororo tribe killed all the newborns that did not appear
healthy enough. Infanticide is also documented in the case of the
Korubo people in the Amazon (93).
ASSESSMENT: throughout long human history infanticide has
been practiced in various cultures in the world including in Ancient
Times, the middle Ages, and this practice continues in contemporary
times.
Infanticide has been practiced on every continent and by people
on every level of cultural complexity, from hunter gatherers to high
civilizations, including our own ancestors. Rather than being an
exception, it has been the rule.
The practice of infanticide has taken many forms over time. Child
was sacrificed to supernatural figures or forces such as have been
practiced in ancient Carthage, possibly is only the most notorious
example in the Ancient Times.
A frequent method of infanticide in ancient Europe and Asia was
simply to abandon the infant, leaving him/her to die by exposure, i.e.
hypothermia, hunger, thirst, or animal attack.
Many Neolithic groups routinely resorted to infanticide in order to
control their numbers so that their lands could support them.
In ancient Greco-Roman times, a father was allowed to kill his
own child without legal repercussions. Despite the later rise of
Christianity and its greater respect for life, filicides continued, often
24
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
perpetrated by the mother, who may have claimed that the child
accidentally was suffocated in bed.
Reasons for infanticide, particularly a neonaticide, included
disability, congenital deformity, wrong gender, lack of resources to
care for the child, or illegitimacy. The babies were put in a clay pot or
jar and deserted outside the front door or on the roadway.
Christianity rejects infanticide. In 318 AD, Constantine I
considered infanticide a crime, and in 374 AD, Valentinian I
mandated the rearing of all children (exposing babies, especially girls,
was still common). The Council of Constantinople declared that
infanticide was homicide, and in 589 AD, the Third Council of Toledo
took measures against the custom of killing their own children.
Exposure in the middle Ages was practiced on gigantic scale with
impunity. At the end of the 12th century, Roman women threw their
newborns into the Tiber River in daylight.
In the middle Ages, the German mother had the right to expose
the newborn. In Gotland, Sweden, children were also sacrificed.
The harshest penalties were imposed on practitioners of
infanticide by the legal codes of the Qin dynasty and Han dynasty of
ancient China. However, China's society practiced sex selective
infanticide.
Among the Koryaks, a Mongoloid people of north-eastern Siberia,
infanticide was still common in the nineteenth century. One of a pair
of twins was sacrificed.
Infanticide was known in China as early as the 3rd century BC,
and, by the time of the Song dynasty (960-1279 AD). In the Ming
Dynasty, however, (13681644), male infanticide was uncommon.
The prevalence of female infanticide remained high much longer.
Female infanticide of newborn girls was systematic in feudatory
Rajputs in South Asia for illegitimate female children during the
Middle Ages.
The practice of female infanticide was common among the Kutch,
Kehtri, Nagar, Bengal, Miazed, Kalowries in Indian inhabitants, and
among the Sindh in British India.
In African societies, some neonates were killed because of beliefs
in evil omens or because they were considered unlucky.
Nigeria twins were sometimes abandoned in a forest at birth,
oftentimes one twin was killed or hidden by midwives of wealthier
mothers. These brave midwives saved one of the twins.
25
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
Similarly to Biblical times, when the ruler of Egypt issued a decree
that all male Hebrew infants should be killed two brave midwives
saved these infants.
References
1. Williamson Laila. Infanticide: an anthropological analysis. In: Kohl Marvin.
Infanticide and the Value of Life. NY: Prometheus Books. 1978, pp. 6175.
2. Brown Shelby. Late Carthaginian Child Sacrifice and Sacrificial Monuments in
their Mediterranean Context. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press. 1991. Available
12 November 2016 at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infanticide.
3. Sergio Ribichini. Beliefs and Religious Life in Moscati Sabatino (ed.). The
Phoenicians. 1988. Available 18 October 2016 at
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infanticide.
4. Boswell JE. Expositio and oblatio: the abandonment of children and the
ancient and medieval family. Am Hist Rev. 1984;89(1):10-33.
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0-299-22554-2.
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25. Kellum BA. Infanitcide in England in the later Middle Ages Hist Child Q.
1974;1:7688.
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org/wiki/Infanticide.
27. John Crossan. The Essential Jesus: Original Sayings and Earliest Images.
Castle, 1994, 1998. ISBN 978-1-55635-833-3.
28. Hughes Dennis D. Human Sacrifice in Ancient Greece. Routledge. 1991.
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29. Dunn PM. Aristotle (384-322 BC): philosopher and scientist of ancient
Greece. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. 2006;91(1):F75-7.
30. Boswell John. The Kindness of Strangers. NY: Vintage Books. 1988.
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34. Radbill Samuel X. A history of child abuse and infanticide. In: Steinmetz
Suzanne K, Murray A Straus. Violence in the Family. NY: Dodd, Mead & Co. 1974, pp.
1739.
35. Boswell JE. Expositio and oblatio: the abandonment of children and the
ancient and medieval family. Am Hist Rev. 1984;89(1):10-33.
36. Langer WL. Infanticide: a historical survey. Hist Child Q. 1974;1(3):353-66.
37. Trexler RC. Infanticide in Florence: new sources and first results. Hist Child
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38. Westrup, C.W. Introduction to Roman Law. London: Oxford University
Press. 1944, p. 249.
39. Turville-Petre, Gabriel. Myth and Religion of the North: The Religion of
Ancient Scandinavia. NY: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. 1964, p. 253.
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Chicago, 1870-1930. J Interpers Violene. 2008;23(5):589-99.
41. McLynn, Frank. Crime and Punishment in 18th Century England. London:
Routledge. 1989, p. 102.
42. The Foundling Hospital and Neighbourhood. Old and New London Journal.
5. 1878.
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43. unknown, unknown. The Foundling Hospital and Neighbourhood. Old and
New London Journal. 5. 1878. Available 20 November 2016 at http://www.british-
history.ac.uk/.
44. MacFarlane Alan. Illegitimacy and Illegitimates in English History. Bastardy
and its Comparative History. Arnold. 1980. p. 75.
45. Rose Lionel. Massacre of the Innocents: Infanticide in Great Britain 1800-
1939. London: Routledge and Kegan. 1986, p. 28.
46. Hitchcock Tim, Shoemaker Robert. The Proceedings of the Old Bailey.
University of Sheffield and University of Hertfordshire. 2006.
47. Woods R, Woodward J. Urban disease and mortality in nineteenth-century
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48. Macfarlane Alan. The history of infanticide in England, 2002. Available 24
October 2016 at http://www.alanmacfarlane.com/savage/A-INFANT.PDF.
49. Esposito John L. (ed.). The Oxford Dictionary of Islam. NY: Oxford University
Press. 2004. p. 138. ISBN 978-0-19-512559-7.
50. Qur'an, XVII:31. Other passages condemning infanticide in the Qur'an appear
in LXXXI:8-9, XVI:60-62, XVII:42 and XLII:48.
51. Encyclopedia of the Qur'an, Children. Available 15 November 2016 at
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infanticide.
52. McLennan JF. Studies in Ancient History, the Second Series. NY: Macmillan
& Co., Ltd. 1886.
53. Kennan George. Tent Life in Siberia. NY: Gibbs Smith. Available 8 November
2016 at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infanticide#cite_ref-Histories_41-0.
54. Elton Lieut F. Notes on Natives of the Solomon Islands. J Anthropol Institute
Great Britain and Ireland. 1988;17:9099.
55. John Makeham. China: The World's Oldest Living Civilization Revealed.
Thames & Hudson. 2008. ISBN 978-0-500-25142-3.
56. Polo Marco. The Travels. Middlesex: Penguin Books. 1965, p. 174.
57. Yu-Lan, Fung. A History of Chinese Philosophy. Princeton: Princeton
University Press. 1952, p. 327.
58. Yao Esther S. Lee. Chinese Women: Past and Present. Mesquite: Ide House.
1983, p. 75.
59. Lee JZ, Campbell C. Fate and fortune in rural China: social organization and
population behavior in Liaoning, 1774-1873. pp. 5882. Available 25 October 2016
at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infanticide#cite_ref-Histories_41-0.
60. David E. Mungello. Drowning girls in China: female infanticide since 1650.
pp. 58. Available 25 October 2016 at
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infanticide#cite_ref-Histories_41-0.
61. Michelle Tien King. Drowning daughters: a cultural history of female
infanticide in late nineteenth century China. Available 25 October 2016 at
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infanticide.
62. Burying Babies in China. Wesleyan Juvenile Offering. London: Wesleyan
Mission House. XXII: 40. March 1865.
63. Shiono H, Maya A, Tabata N, et al. Medicolegal aspects of infanticide in
Hokkaido District, Japan. Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 1986;7(2):104-6.
64. Vaux Kenneth. Birth Ethics. NY: Crossroad. 1989, p. 12.
65. Science: Japanese Twins. Available 26 October 2016 at
http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,770452,00.html.
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66. Westermarck Edward. A Short History of Marriage. NY: Humanities Press.
1968. pp. Vol. III, 162.
67. Hindoo Woman and Child. The Wesleyan Juvenile Offering: A Miscellany of
Missionary Information for Young Persons. Wesleyan Missionary Society. IX: 24.
March 1852.
68. Panigrahi, Lalita. British Social Policy and Female Infanticide in India. New
Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal. 1972, p. 18.
69. Davies Nigel. Human Sacrifice. NY: William Morrow & Co. 1981. ISBN 0-
333-22384-5.
70. Hindoo Mother Sacrificing her infant. The Wesleyan Juvenile Offering: A
Miscellany of Missionary Information for Young Persons. Wesleyan Missionary
Society. X: 120. 1853.
71. Green EC. Infanticide and infant abandonment in the new South: Richmond,
Virginia, 1865-1915. J Fam Hist. 1999;24(2):187-211.
72. Milner, Larry S. Hardness of Heart/Hardness of Life: The Stain of Human
Infanticide. Lanham/New York/Oxford: University Press of America. 2000. ISBN 0-
7618-1578-3.
73. LeVine Sarah, Robert LeVine. Child abuse and neglect in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In Korbin, Jill. Child Abuse and Neglect. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1981.
74. My First Born. Victoria, Australia. 1866. Available 28 October 2016 at
http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/63170296.
75. Justine Ferrari. Aboriginal violence was 'sanitised. The Australian. Available
20 October 2016 at http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/ article/63170296.
76. Rubinstein W D. Genocide: a history. Pearson Education. 2004, p. 16. ISBN
0-582-50601-8.
77. James Dawson. Australian Aborigines: The Languages and Customs of
Several Tribes of Aborigines in the Western District of Victoria, Australia. George
Robertson. 1881. Reissued by Cambridge University Press. 2009. ISBN 978-1-108-
00655-2).
78. Schrire Carmel, William Lee Steiger. A matter of life and death: an
investigation into the practice of female infanticide in the Arctic. Man: J Royal
Anthropol Soc. 1974; 9: 162.
79. Fridtjof Nansen. Eskimo Life. London: Longmans, Green & Co. 1894, p. 152.
80. Garber CM. Eskimo infanticide. Sci Mon. 1947;64(2):98-102.
81. Langer WL. Infanticide: a historical survey. Hist Child Q. 1974;1(3):353-66.
82. Balikci Asen Netslik. In: Damas David. Handbook of North American Indians
(Arctic). Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution. 1984, p. 427
83. Chapman M. Infanticide and fertility among Eskimos: a computer
simulation. Am J Phys Anthropol. 1980;53(2):317-27.
84. Savishinsky Joel, Hiroko Sue Hara. Hare. In: Helm June. Handbook of North
America n Indians (Subarctic). Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution. 1981, p. 322.
85. Gillespie Beryl. Mountain Indians. In: Helm June Handbook of North
American Indians (Subarctic). Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution. 1981, p. 331.
86. Shimkin Demitri B. Eastern Shoshone. In: D'Azevedo Warren L. Handbook of
North American Indians (Great Basin). Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution.
1986, p. 330.
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87. Riddell Francis, Maidu Konkow. In: Heizer Robert F. Handbook of North
American Indians (California). Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution. 1978, p.
381.
88. Campbell TN. Coahuitlecans and their neighbours. In: Ortiz, Alonso.
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1955, Vol. I, 6.
91. Bugos Paul E, Lorraine M. McCarthy. Ayoreo infanticide: a case study. In:
Hausfater, Glenn & Sarah Blaffer Hrdy. Infanticide, Comparative and Evolutionary
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92. Johnson, Orna. The socioeconomic context of child abuse and neglect in
native South America. In: Korbin Jill. Child Abuse and Neglect. Berkeley: University
of California Press. 1981, p. 63.
93. Cotlow Lewis. The Twilight of the Primitive. NY: Macmillan. 1971, p. 65.
CLASSIFICATION
One of the most influential classifications of child murder was
created in 1969 by Phillip Resnick (1). He reviewed 131 cases of
filicide committed by both men and women that were discussed in
psychiatric literature dating from 1751 to 1967. Resnik developed
five categories to account for the motives driving parents to kill their
children:
ALTRUISTIC FILICIDE. The parent kills the child because it has
been perceived in the best interest of the child. Acts associated with
parental suicidal ideation - the parent may believe that the world is
too cruel to leave the child behind after his or her death. Acts meant
to relieve the suffering of the child - the child has a disability, either
real or imagined, that the parent finds intolerable.
ACUTE PSYCHOTIC FILICIDE. The parent, responding to psychosis,
kills the child with no other rational motive. This category may also
include incidents that occur secondary to automatisms related to
seizures or activities taking place in a post-ictal state.
30
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
UNWANTED CHILD FILICIDE. The parent kills the child, who is
regarded as a hindrance. This category also includes parents who
benefit from the death of the child in some way (e.g., inheriting
insurance money, or marrying a partner who does not want step-
children).
ACCIDENTAL FILICIDE. The parent unintentionally kills the child as
a result of abuse. This category includes the rarely occurring
Munchausen syndrome by proxy.
SPOUSE REVENGE FILICIDE. The parent kills the child as a means
of exacting revenge upon the spouse, perhaps secondary to infidelity
or abandonment.
The most common motive in Resnick's study was altruism. In
total, this category accounted for 49% of the cases reviewed. The
least common motive was spousal revenge, which accounted for only
two percent of the murders. This comprehensive classification
system can be applied to both female and male perpetrators (1).
In 1973, Scott devised another classification system based on the
impulse to kill. This was the first classification system based solely on
the actions of fathers. The system was derived from his research
involving 46 fathers who killed their children (2).
In 1999, Guileyardo published a classification system based on
Resnick's system, which was enhanced to reflect a broader range of
motives (3).
In 2001, Meyer and Oberman created a classification system
identifying the causes of maternal infanticide (4).
There is some overlap between the classification systems
proposed over the last several decades, the development of these
systems contributes some important points to the growing body of
knowledge related to filicide (5).
A classification of female perpetrators was established using
psychopathological, mental, social and biographical characteristics
and the frequency between the old and new federal states in
Germany was compared. A total of 63 female German perpetrators
who killed at least one newborn between 1986 and 2009 were
portrayed and classified by epidemiological and psychopathological
characteristics and personality profiles. After obtaining consent from
31
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
the public prosecutors responsible, data were collected from forensic
psychiatric expert opinions and legally valid court verdicts. A
questionnaire was established to answer the questions on the
psychopathological, e.g. do the women suffer from a mental disease
when killing their newborn(s), mental, e.g. can personality
accentuations be elicited, social, e.g. are the women unemployed
and biographical characteristics of the women, e.g. how old are the
women? The cluster analysis provided a foundation for a
dichotomous classification of the perpetrators depending on five
criteria. The first category contained 32 perpetrators who were on
average 21 years old, who were primiparous and who hid, ignored or
did not perceive their pregnancy. Most of them still lived with their
parents. The perpetrators either did not have a mental disease or
suffered from an acute stress disorder. The second category
contained 31 perpetrators who were on average 25 years old, who
were pluriparous, who hid their pregnancy and who lived with their
partner. These women either did not have a mental disease or suffer
from a personality disorder. A significant higher incidence was found
in the eastern federal states of Germany. The data indicate that the
presented categorization of female perpetrators into two groups,
where the features show a small degree of overlap, should be taken
into consideration in the assessment of the reasons for neonaticide.
The typology of female perpetrators is more heterogeneous than
previously assumed (6).
References
1. Resnick PJ. Child murder by parents: a psychiatric review of filicide. Am J
Psychiatry. 1970;126:32534.
2. Scott PD. Parents who kill their children. Med Sci Law. 1973;13:1206.
3. Guileyardo JM, Prahlow JA, Barnard JJ. Familial filicide and filicide
classification. Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 1999;20(3):28692.
4. Meyer C, Oberman M. Mothers Who Kill Their Children: Inside the Minds of
      
Press; 2001.
5. Sara G. West. An Overview of Filicide. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2007;4(2): 48
57.
6. Schöne M, Peter E, Dobrowolny H, Bogerts B. Neonaticide: a classification of
female perpetrators in an east-west comparison. Nervenarzt. 2015;86(5):595-602.
32
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
EPIDEMIOLOGY
In 1983, the U.S. ranked eleventh for infants under 1 year killed,
and fourth for those killed from 1 through 14 years (the latter case
not necessarily involving filicide) (1). In the U.S. over six hundred
children were killed by their parents in 1983 (2). The infanticide rate
during the first hour of life dropped from 1.41 per 100,000 during
1963 to 1972 to 0.44 per 100,000 for 1974 to 1983; the rates during
the first month of life also declined, whereas those for older infants
rose during this time (3). The legalization of abortion, which was
completed in 1973, was the most important factor in the decline in
neonatal mortality during the period from 1964 to 1977 (3,4).
Filicide is the killing of one or more children by a parent,
stepparent, or other parental figure. The first comprehensive
analysis of U.S. filicide was drawn from 94,146 filicide arrests
tabulated over a 32-year period in the U.S. Federal Bureau of
Investigation's Supplementary Homicide Reports. Filicides comprised
15% of all murders during this period. Modal victim age was less
than one year old. One-third of the victims were under a year old;
over two-thirds of the victims were age six or less. Fathers were as
likely as mothers to kill infants. The mean age of offenders was 32
years with a mode of 22 years, and nearly three-quarters were aged
18-45. Female offenders were notably younger than their male
counterparts. Black (or African American) offenders were significantly
overrepresented in filicide compared to Whites. Most common
killing methods included using hands and feet, strangulation, beating,
asphyxiation, drowning, and defenestration. Stepparents were not at
higher risk of filicide than genetic parents, but were twice as likely to
kill using firearms. Synthesizing these results with papers from other
fields, three trans disciplinary, empirically informed filicide categories
primarily defined by effects of 1] psychopathology associated with
neurotransmitter disturbances, 2] gender and sex hormones, and 3]
evolutionary motives were proposed (5).
Since 1950, in 26 industrialized countries child homicide rates
have tripled, and homicide is within the top five causes of death for
children ages 1 to 14 years old (6). In 2004, 311 of 578 (53.8%)
children under the age of five were murdered by their parents in the
US. Between the years of 1976 and 2004, 30% of all children
murdered under the age of five were killed by their mothers and 31%
33
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
by their fathers (7). Male and female children appear to be killed in
equal numbers, though one study did find that fathers are more likely
to kill sons while mothers more frequently kill daughters (8).
Interest in the discarding or killing of newborns by parents has
increased due to wide news coverage and efforts by states to provide
Safe Haven legislation to combat the problem. The characteristics of
these cases in North Carolina are described. Case series derived from
data on all deaths among live born infants 0 to 4 days of age reported
to the North Carolina medical examiner from 1985 through 2000.
Main outcome measures include incidence of newborns known to
have been killed or discarded by a parent; epidemiological
characteristics of newborns and parents. There were 34 newborns
known to have been killed or discarded by a parent, comprising
0.002% of all live born infants during the 16-year study period, giving
a rate of 2.1 per 100 000 per year. A total of 58.8% were male, 41.1%
were white, and 52.9% were black. For 29 cases, the perpetrator was
determined to be the mother. Among mothers, 50% were single and
20.6% were married (marital status of the remainder was unknown).
Thirty-five percent had had other children. Eight mothers (23.5%)
were known to have received some prenatal care. The mean age of
the mothers was 19.1 years (range, 14-35 years) and more than half
were aged 18 years or older. The most common causes of death were
asphyxiation/strangulation (41.1%) and drowning (26.5%). The data
indicate that in North Carolina, at least 2.1 per 100 000 newborns are
known to be killed or left to die per year, usually by their mothers. It
is unknown how many of these deaths might be prevented by Safe
Haven laws. Efforts to educate the public about these laws need to
target the general public. Where resources are limited, the focus
should be on adolescent pregnancy prevention programs, young
adults, prenatal care clinics, and married women (9).
In Canada, 114 cases of infanticide by a parent were reported
during 1964-1968 (10). There is ongoing debate in the Canadian legal
and political fields about whether section 233 of the Criminal Code,
which creates the specific offence and partial defence of infanticide
in Canadian law, should be amended or abolished altogether (11).
Fortunately, infanticide has become less common in the Western
World. The frequency has been estimated to be approximately 1 in
3000-5000 children of all ages (12) and 2.1 per 100,000 newborns per
year (13).
34
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
In England and Wales there were typically 30 to 50 homicides per
million children less than 1 year old between 1982 and 1996. The
younger the infant, the higher the risk. The rate for children 1 to 5
years was around 10 per million children. The homicide rate of
infants less than 1 year was significantly higher than for the general
population (14).
Infanticide. Mexican artist Antonio García Vega.
Details from Scottish Office records of all infants under a year who
were the victims of homicide in Scotland during 1978-1993 are
presented and compared with results from studies of infant homicide
in England and Wales. Although Scottish homicide rates in the total
population are much higher than those in England and Wales, the
annual Scottish infanticide rate (43/million) is remarkably similar to
that of England and Wales (45/million). Characteristics of victims and
perpetrators are also similar between the two regions. As with
England and Wales, in Scotland the younger the infant the greater
the risk of becoming the victim of homicide (83% were killed within 6
months of birth); male babies were more frequently killed than
female ones; a parent was the most frequent perpetrator (93% of
offences); mothers tended to kill neonates but for infants older than
a day more fathers than mothers were recorded as the main accused.
Mothers and fathers were convicted of similar offences but fathers
were less likely to receive non-custodial sentences. Differences in
sentencing appeared to be related to either gender-related
differences in attributions as to the motivation for the offence, or to
the level of violence used against the victim. Offences of mothers
were most frequently recorded as being motivated by mental illness,
those by fathers as due to rage. Fathers were more likely to have
killed by kicking or hitting, mothers by some form of suffocation (15).
35
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
For a child, the likelihood of being murdered is highest during the
first year of life, and many such cases are neonaticides. The
prevalence and phenomenon of neonaticide in Switzerland were
analyzed. Using data from judicial files, 11 cases were identified in 15
German-speaking cantons between 1980 and 2010. The sample
included two uncommon cases of nonmaternal neonaticide (16).
All autopsy reports on neonates from the Netherlands Forensic
Institute for the period 1994-2011 were presented. Data were
collected on gestational age, how the body had been discovered and
autopsy results. Details of 78 victims were included; 61 (78%) had
been born at full term and 17 (22%) prematurely. Half of the victims
were girls, 40% were boys and in 10% the state of the body meant
that it was not possible to determine the sex. Minimal, moderate
and severe putrefaction was observed in 29 bodies (37%), 15 bodies
(19%) and 34 bodies (44%), respectively. In the cases with moderate
or severe decomposition it was impossible to determine with
certainty whether the child had been born alive and, if applicable, the
cause of death. Of the remaining 29 cases with minimal
decomposition, 1 had been stillborn; a possible cause of death could
be determined in 12 cases. The data indicate that in the Netherlands
4 to 5 forensic autopsies are performed annually in cases of
suspected neonaticide. In most cases, decomposition is already too
advanced to be able to determine whether there was any sign of life
at birth and to establish the cause of death, if applicable (17).
Filicides have decreased in Finland. All filicides (child homicides by
parents) in Finland during 1995-2005 were elucidated in a register
study. The material consisted of 50 parents of 66 killed children.
Altogether 15 parents also committed suicide. After the deed, 31
parents were subjected to psychiatric examination; ten out of them
had a psychotic disorder. A personality disorder was found in 16
parents and a non-psychotic affective disorder in 12 parents. The
data indicate that homicidal parents differ from other homicidal
persons. Prevention of suicides is also expected to prevent homicide
mortality among children (18).
All filicides in Austria and Finland during 1995-2005 were
investigated. Filicide-suicide cases were also included. Most of the
perpetrators were the biological mothers; in Austria 72%, in Finland
52%. Suicide followed filicide either as an attempt or a fulfilled act in
32% and 54% of the cases in Austria and Finland, respectively.
36
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
Psychotic mood disorders were diagnosed for 10% of the living
perpetrators in Austria, and 12% in Finland. Non-psychotic
depression was diagnosed in 9% of surviving perpetrators in Austria,
35% in Finland. The data from the two countries demonstrated that
filicide is such a multifaceted and rare phenomenon that national
data from individual countries seldom offer sufficient scope for its
thorough study (12).
Infanticides are not specifically classified in German criminal
records. Thus, the number of infanticides varies depending on
different sources of information. Reports from expert witnesses
(n=48, 1980-2007) from the German regions around Munich and
Rostock were analyzed retrospectively in order to identify
sociodemographic, clinical and forensic characteristics of child
murders. In 87.5% of the cases, the victims were the natural children
of which 25 were younger than 1 year old. Female offenders
outnumbered male offenders by 3:1 and on average females were 8
years younger than males (26.5 years for females and 34.2 years for
males). The motives included unwanted pregnancy/child, altruistic
deeds, acute psychoses, child abuse (sexual abuse, neglect or
negligence), drug or alcohol abuse, sadistic punishment of the child
and revenge on partners. In 27 cases a restricted or exemption from
criminal responsibility was acknowledged. About one third of the
offenders consulted a physician before the crime. For an
improvement in primary prevention, support networks should be
integrated and sensitized to the problem (19).
In the 1998 to 2008, the autopsies performed at the Hamburg
Institute of Legal Medicine included 13 cases in which an
investigation for neonaticide had been initiated by the public
prosecutor. The killed neonates showed a nearly equal distribution
between both sexes. The most common method of neonaticide was
suffocation. Most of the perpetrators were young, unmarried
primipara with an average educational background. Almost all of
them were suffering under psychological stress and had negated
their pregnancy. In most cases, birth and neonaticide happened
alone in their flat, and there was no medical attendance in any case.
In the cases brought to court the women were charged with
manslaughter (Section 212 German Criminal Code) and those found
guilty were always granted a mitigated sentence pursuant to Section
213 Criminal Code (20).
37
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
For the layperson no crime is more difficult to comprehend than
the killing of a child by his or her own parents. Neonaticide and
infanticide were investigated in Eastern Croatia from 1980 to 2004.
Judicial records of infanticide cases stored in Regional and County
Courts were analyzed for the circumstances surrounding the offense.
Twenty-four babies were discovered in various places during
investigating period of time. The victims were almost equally divided
between boys (12) and girls (11). The gender of one baby was
unknown. The mean weight of babies was 2.7 SD = 0.66 kg. The
perpetrators preferred rubbish-heaps (33.4%), burying in soil (16.7%),
various premises in or around the house (16.7%) and garbage cans
(12.5%) as places for hiding the dead babies. The most dominant
cause of death in sixteen cases of live birth was asphyxia (37%) with
equal distribution of smothering, stuffing the mouth with rags and
strangulation. Other frequent causes of death were placing the child
in a plastic bag and abandonment (25%), brain injury (25%) and
wounding using a sharp weapon (12.5%). The cause of death for six
babies remained unknown due to advanced decomposition. Two
babies were stillborn. The age of accused mothers varied from 16 to
33, mean 24 SD=5.2 years. Most of them were unmarried (60%) and
had limited formal education. They usually kept the pregnancy a
secret (73%) and gave birth (93%) without public welfare assistance.
The mother lived in the terror of shame and with the guilt that
accompany conception without marriage. Fear seemed to be a
pronounced motivating factor for committing infanticide. The data
on court proceedings were available in fifteen cases. The mothers
were officially indicted in all cases for infanticide under the Croatian
Criminal Code. The perpetrator remained unidentified in nine
suspicious crimes. The court convicted ten mothers of the crime of
infanticide. Often juries were unwilling to punish the mother, citing
the mother's lifelong guilt of having killed her child as enough
punishment (21).
Socio-demographic features and criminal liability of individuals
who committed filicide in Turkey were determined. A total of 85
cases of filicide were evaluated by the 4th Specialized Board of the
Institute of Forensic Medicine in Istanbul in the 1995-2000 period.
The characteristics of parents who committed filicide (age, sex,
education level, employment status, and criminal liability) were
assessed and children victims (age, sex, own or stepchild), as well as
38
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
the causes of death were evaluated. There were 85 parents who
committed filicide (41 fathers and 44 mothers) and 96 children
victims. The mean age of mothers who committed filicide (52% of
filicides) was 26.5-/+7.7 years, and the mean age of fathers (48% of
filicides) was 36.1-/+10.0 years (p<0.001). Individuals diagnosed with
psychiatric disturbances, such as schizophrenia (61%), major
depression (22%), imbecility (10%), and mild mental retardation (7%),
were not subject to criminal liability. Almost half of parents who
committed filicide were unemployed and illiterate. Filicide in Turkey
was equally committed by mothers and fathers. More than half of
the parents were diagnosed with psychiatric disorders and came
from disadvantageous socioeconomic environments, where
unemployment and illiteracy rates are highly above the average of
Turkey (22).
Mothers charged with killing their children within 24 hours of
birth in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil were examined.
Characteristics of the mothers and the victims, the circumstances
surrounding the offense, the mothers' motivation and state of mind
at the time of the offense, the legal process, and follow-up data were
investigated. The cohort was analyzed as two sub-groups: 26
offenses that occurred between 1900 and 1939 and were dealt with
under the Brazilian Penal Code of 1890, and 27 offenses that were
committed between 1940 and 1995 were dealt with under the Penal
Code of 1940. The mothers were young (mean 22.5 +/- 5.3 years),
unmarried (88.2%), non-Caucasian (73.8%), and had limited formal
education. They usually kept the pregnancy a secret (94.1%) and gave
birth in a classified way (100%). Most victims were killed through
wounding violence (77.4%). Offenders between the years of 1940-
1995 had increased rates of literacy (p=0.009), a higher incidence of
reported psychiatric symptoms (p<0.001), increased referral for
psychiatric assessment (p=0.05), and greater frequency of cases
where statute of limitations has expired (p=0.049) (23).
The prevalence and characteristics of infanticide and illegal infant
abandonment were described in Malaysia and annual rates for the
most recent decade were estimated. Summaries of data about
infanticide and illegal infant abandonment were gathered from police
records; the annual number of live births was ascertained from the
national registry. The estimated inferred infanticide rates for
Malaysia were compared with the infanticide rates among countries
39
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
of very high, high, medium, and low rankings on the Human
Development, Gender Inequality, and Gini indices. From 1999 to
2011, 1,069 cases of illegal infant abandonment were recorded and
1,147 people were arrested as suspected perpetrators. The
estimated inferred infanticide rate fluctuated between 4.82 and 9.11
per 100,000 live births, a moderate rate relative to the infanticide
rates of other countries. There were substantial missing data, with
details undocumented for about 78-87% of cases and suspected
perpetrators. Of the documented cases, it appeared that more boys
than girls were victims and suspected perpetrators were
predominantly Malays who were women, usually mothers of the
victim; the possibility of arrest bias must be acknowledged.
Economic and social inequality, particularly gender inequality, might
contribute to the phenomena of infanticide and abandonment (24).
An age and gender analysis of homicides among children less than
5 years in South Africa from a national study included a focus on
neonaticide and infanticide. A retrospective national cross-sectional
study was conducted using a random sample of 38 medico-legal
laboratories operating in 2009 to identify homicides of children less
than 5 years. Child data were abstracted from the mortuary files and
autopsy reports, and both child and perpetrator data were collected
from police interviews. Applying a conservative definition of
homicide was erred towards and excluded sudden infant death
syndrome cases. A total of 454 (95% CI 366-541) children less than
the age of 5 years were killed in South Africa in 2009. More than half
(53.2%, 95% CI 46.%-59.5%) were neonates (0-28 days), and 74.4%
(95% CI 69.3-78.9%) were infants (under 1 year), giving a neonaticide
rate of 19.6 per 100,000 live births and an infanticide rate of 28.4 per
100,000 live births. The majority of the neonates died in the early
neonatal period (0-6 days), and abandonment accounted for 84.9%
(95% CI 81.5%-87.8%) of all the neonates killed. Distinct age and
gender patterns were found, with significantly fewer boy children
killed in rural settings compared to urban settings (OR 0.6, 95% CI
0.4-0.9, p=0.015). Abuse-related killings and evidence of sexual
assault were more common among older girls than in all other age
and gender groups. Mothers were identified as the perpetrators in
all of the neonaticides and were the most common perpetrators
overall (71.0%, 95% CI 63.9-77.2%). Abandoned neonates were
mainly term babies, with a mean gestational age of 38 weeks.
40
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
Information on abandonment motives was not found for all
newborns and if babies were abandoned with the intention that they
would die or with the hope that they would be found alive.
Therefore all abandoned babies were considered as homicides. The
data indicate that homicide of children is an extreme form or
consequence of violence against children. The data indicate the
failure of reproductive and mental health and social services to
identify and help vulnerable mothers (25).
Killings of newborn babies have been on the rise in Pakistan,
corresponding to an increase in poverty across the country (26). The
Edhi Foundation found 1,210 dead babies in 2010. Many more were
abandoned and left at the doorsteps of mosques. As a result, Edhi
centers feature signed "Do not murder, lay them here." Though
female infanticide is punishable by life in prison, such crimes are
rarely prosecuted (26).
The practice of infanticide has continued in rural areas of India
(27,28). Infanticide is illegal in India (29). According to a recent
report by the UNICEF up to 50 million girls and women are missing in
India's population as a result of systematic sex discrimination and sex
selective abortions (30).
The Article (31) quantifies the frequency of infanticide and
abortion in one region of Japan by comparing observed fertility in a
sample of 4.9 million person-years (1660-1872) with a Monte Carlo
simulation of how many conceptions and births that population
should have experienced. The simulation uses empirical values for
the determinants of fertility from Eastern Japan itself as well as the
best available studies of comparable populations. This procedure
reveals that in several decades of the eighteenth century, at least
40% of pregnancies must have ended in either an induced abortion
or an infanticide. In addition, the simulation results imply a rapid
decline in the incidence of infanticide and abortion during the
nineteenth century, when in a reverse fertility transition, this
premodern family-planning regime gave way to a new age of large
families (31).
ASSESSMENT: neonaticide, infanticide, and filicide are a prevalent
behavior in different areas in the world, although different
prevalence rates are observed.
41
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
References
1. Jason J. Child homicide spectrum. Am J Dis Child. 1983;137(6):578-81.
2. Kaye NS, Borenstein NM, Donnelly SM. Families, murder, and insanity: a
psychiatric review of paternal neonaticide. J Forensic Sci. 1990;35(1):133-9.
3. Maureen Paul. Management of unintended and abnormal pregnancy:
comprehensive abortion care. Wiley-Blackwell. 2009, pp. 3334. ISBN 978-1-4051-
7696-5.
4. Eisenberg, Leon; Brown, Sarah Hart. The best intentions: unintended
pregnancy and the well-being of children and families. Washington, D.C: National
Academy Press. 1995. ISBN 0-309-05230-0.
5. Mariano TY, Chan HC, Myers WC. Toward a more holistic understanding of
filicide: a multidisciplinary analysis of 32 years of U.S. arrest data. Forensic Sci Int.
2014;236:46-53. Erratum in Forensic Sci Int. 2014;245:92-94.
6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rates of homicide, suicide and
fire-arm related death among children 26 industrialized countries. Available 28
October 2016 at www.cdc.gov/MMWR/preview/mmwrhtml/00046149.htm.
7. U.S. Department of Justice. Homicide trends in the United States: Infanticide.
Available at 26 October 2016 at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/children.htm.
8. Rodenburg M. Child murder by depressed parents. Can Psychiatr Assoc J.
1971;16(1):418.
9. Herman-Giddens ME, Smith JB, Mittal M, et al. Newborns killed or left to die
by a parent: a population-based study. JAMA. 2003;289(11):1425-9.
10. Rodenburg M. Child murder by depressed parents. Can Psychiatr Assoc J.
1971;16:43.
11. Vallillee E. Deconstructing Infanticide. Western J Legal Studies. 2015;5(4):9
10.
12. Putkonen H, Amon S, Almiron MP, et al. Filicide in Austria and Finland - A
register-based study on all filicide cases in Austria and Finland 1995-2005. BMC
Psychiatry. 2009;9:74
13. Herman-Giddens ME, Smith JB, Mittal M, et al. Newborns killed or left to die
by a parent a population-based study. JAMA. 2003;289(11):1425-9.
14. Maureen M. Infanticide. Psychiatry. 2009;8 (1): 1012.
15. Marks MN, Kumar R. Infanticide in Scotland. Med Sci Law. 1996;36(4):299-
305.
16. Krüger P. Prevalence and phenomenology of neonaticide in Switzerland
1980-2010: a retrospective study. Violence Vict. 2015;30(2):194-207.
17. Soerdjbalie-Maikoe V, de Wijs-Heijlaerts KJ, Meijerman L, et al. Neonaticide:
frequently suspected, seldom proven. Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd. 2013;157(49):A6546.
18. Putkonen H, Weizmann-Henelius G, Eronen M. Filicides in Finland. Duode
cim. 2009;125(9):991-6.
19. Bätje C, Schläfke D, Nedopil N, Hässler F. Infanticide. Social and forensic
aspects. Nervenarzt. 2011;82(7):873-9.
20. Krohn J, Anders S, Püschel K, Schröder AS. Neonaticides in Hamburg,
Germany, from 1998 to 2008. Arch Kriminol. 2011;227(5-6):174-80.
21. 
Coll Antropol. 2006;30(2):437-42.
42
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
22. Karakus M, Ince H, Ince N, et al. Filicide cases in Turkey, 1995-2000. Croat
Med J. 2003;44(5):592-5.
23. Mendlowicz MV, Jean-Louis G, Gekker M, Rapaport MH. Neonaticide in the
city of Rio de Janeiro: forensic and psycholegal perspectives. J Forensic Sci.
1999;44(4):741-5.
24. Razali S, Kirkman M, Ahmad SH, Fisher J. Infanticide and illegal infant
abandonment in Malaysia. Child Abuse Negl. 2014;38(10):1715-24.
25. Abrahams N, Mathews S, Martin LJ, et al. Gender differences in homicide of
neonates, infants, and children under 5 y in South Africa: results from the cross-
sectional 2009 national child homicide study. PLoS Med. 2016;13(4):e1002003.
26. Infanticide on the rise: 1,210 babies found dead in 2010, says Edhi. Available
28 October 2016 at http://tribune.com.pk/story/105019/infanticide-on-the-rise-in-
pakistan-statistics/.
27. Murphy Paul. Killing baby girls routine in India. San Francisco Examiner.
1995, pp. C12.
28. Grim motives behind infant killings. Available 10 October 2016 at
http://edition.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/asiapcf/south/07/07/india.infanticide.pt1/ind
ex.html.
29. For India's daughters, a dark birth day. Available 20 October 2016 at
http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0209/p11s01-wosc.html.
30. Missing: 50 million Indian girls. Available 14 October 2016 at
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/25/opinion/missing-50-million-indian-girls.html
31. Drixler FF. Conjuring the ghosts of missing children: a Monte Carlo
simulation of reproductive restraint in Tokugawa Japan. Demography.
2015;52(2):667-703.
RISK FACTORS
CHILD ABUSE/DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
In the United Kingdom and the U.S., older infants are typically
killed for reasons related to child abuse, domestic violence or mental
illness. For infants older than one day, younger infants are more at
risk, and boys are more at risk than girls. Risk factors for the parent
include: family history of violence, violence in current relationship,
history of abuse or neglect of children, and personality disorder
and/or depression (1).
Reference
1. Marks M. Infanticide. Psychiatry. 2009;8(1):1012.
ECONOMIC
43
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
The reason for infanticide is primarily economic, with more
children born than the family is prepared to support. In societies that
are patrilineal and patrilocal, the family may choose to allow more
sons to live and kill some daughters, as the former will support their
birth family until they die, whereas the latter will leave economically
and geographically to join their husband's family, possibly only after
the payment of a burdensome dowry price. The decision to bring up
a boy is more economically rewarding to the parents (1).
The southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu has experienced a
dramatic decline in fertility, accompanied by a trend of increased son
preference. Findings from qualitative interviews with women in rural
villages about their fertility decision-making are described.
Specifically addressed are the reasons behind increasing son
preference and the consequences of this change. Findings suggest
that daughter aversion, fuelled primarily by the perceived economic
burden of daughters due to the proliferation of dowry, is playing a
larger role in fertility decision-making than son preference. The
desire for a son is often trumped by the worry over having many
daughters. Women use various means of controlling the sex of their
children, which appear to be primarily female infanticide. It is
important to distinguish between son preference and daughter
aversion and to examine repercussions of low fertility within this
setting (2).
In modern Indian political discourse the custom of dowry is often
represented as the cause of serious social problems, including the
neglect of daughters, sex-selective abortion, female infanticide, and
the harassment, abuse, and murder of brides. Attempts to deal with
these problems through legislative prohibition of dowry, however,
have resulted in virtually no diminution of either dowry or violence
against women. By contrast, radically different interpretations of
dowry can be found in the literatures of structural-functionalist
anthropology, economics, and human behavioral ecology which
muster wide-ranging forms of qualitative and quantitative evidence
to support functional models of dowry as a form of inheritance or
investment in daughters and/or their children. A functionalist
perspective on dowry could lead to improved dowry policy, and that
an approach based in human behavioral ecology is uniquely suited to
this task. If dowry legislation is to achieve broad support or bring
about effective social change, it must address and support the
44
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
positive motivations for and effects of dowry and take a targeted
approach to dowry violence, which is not uniformly distributed across
regions, castes, or social classes (3).
References
1. Milner Larry S. Hardness of Heart/Hardness of Life: The Stain of Human
Infanticide. Lanham/New York/Oxford: University Press of America. 2000. ISBN 0-
7618-1578-3.
2. Diamond-Smith N, Luke N, McGarvey S. 'Too many girls, too much dowry':
son preference and daughter aversion in rural Tamil Nadu, India. Cult Health Sex.
2008;10(7):697-708.
3. Shenk MK. Dowry and Public Policy in Contemporary India : The Behavioral
Ecology of a "Social Evil". Hum Nat. 2007;18(3):242-63.
CHASING SPIRITS
In the Kassena-Nankana District of Ghana, researchers and health
interventionists describe a phenomenon wherein some children are
subject to infanticide because they are regarded as spirit children
sent "from the bush" to cause misfortune and destroy the family.
This phenomenon remains largely misunderstood and
misrepresented. Based upon both ethnographic research and verbal
autopsy data from 2006 to 2007 and 2009, this paper clarifies the
characteristics of and circumstances surrounding the spirit child
phenomenon, the role it plays within community understandings of
childhood illness and mortality, and the variations present within the
discourse and practice. The spirit child is a complex explanatory
model closely connected to the Nankani sociocultural world and
understandings surrounding causes of illness, disability, and
misfortune, and is best understood within the context of the larger
economic, social, and health concerns within the region. The
identification of a child as a spirit child does not necessarily indicate
that the child was a victim of infanticide. The spirit child best
describes why a child died, rather than how the death occurred. In
addition to shaping maternal and child health interventions, these
findings have implications for verbal autopsy assessments and the
accuracy of demographic data concerning the causes of child
mortality (1).
Communities in remote regions of northeast Ghana record some
of the highest rates of less than five year mortality in West Africa
(23.9 per 1000 children/year (2). The communities, isolated
45
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
geographically and culturally from the main tribal groups in Ghana
continue to adhere very strongly to traditional beliefs and practices.
A qualitative study of both traditional and modern maternal and child
health care systems in the area, demonstrated that almost 15% of
deaths of infants less than 3 months of age were due to a belief in
chichuru or spirit children, resulting in infanticide. It is therefore a
significant public health problem, which has to be addressed in
programs for the control of child mortality. A modification of the
verbal autopsy method is proposed to assist in the identification of
non-biomedical causes of death (3).
References
1. Denham AR, Adongo PB, Freydberg N, Hodgson A. Chasing spirits: clarifying
the spirit child phenomenon and infanticide in Northern Ghana. Soc Sci Med. 2010;
71(3):608-15.
2. Binka FN, Maude GH, Gyapong M, Ross DA, Smith PG. Risk factors for child
mortality in northern Ghana: a case-control study. Int J Epidemiol. 1995;24(1):127-
35.
3. Allotey P, Reidpath D. Establishing the causes of childhood mortality in
Ghana: the 'spirit child'. Soc Sci Med. 2001;52(7):1007-12.
DENIAL/CONCEALMENT OF PREGNANCY
Before the appearance of effective contraception, infanticide was
a common occurrence in ancient brothels. Unlike usual infanticide,
where historically girls have been more likely to be killed, prostitutes
in certain areas preferred to kill their male offspring (1).
Two cases of newborn death and two cases of near-miss newborn
death are described. One neonate was strangled to death after
delivery in the hospital and one died from lethal congenital
malformations. The third was found on the verge of death after
being abandoned in a dumpster. The fourth was rescued from the
toilet bowl by the mother's boyfriend while the mother was in a state
of panic. In the three cases, where the infants' maternal identities
were known, the women were all primiparous and aged 22, 13, and
17 years. The paternity was extramarital, incestuous, and concealed,
respectively. Denial or concealment of pregnancy was present in all
cases, but none of the women had any overt psychiatric
manifestations at the time of delivery. Neonaticide and newborn
abandonment are closely associated with denial of pregnancy, and
are serious forms of childhood victimization. Their occurrence in
46
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
Hong Kong is poorly understood and no representative figures are
available. A concerted effort among the health care, social work, and
judicial professionals is needed to define the scope of the problem
and devise preventive measures (2).
Pregnancy denial and neonaticide have recently received media
coverage following a series of French cases of neonatal killing.
Although it has been known for a long time that some women deny
their pregnancy and may kill their newborns, there is still no
consensus on the etiopathogenic factors involved in the denial of
pregnancy occurrence. Even though neonaticide is often committed
by young, poor, unmarried women with little or no prenatal care, it
appears that denial of pregnancy is a heterogeneous condition
associated with different psychological features. Societies are
ambivalent with regard to mothers who killed their children and tend
to lay the entire blame on them. There is a widespread lack of
understanding among the public on these affairs, when birth control
techniques and methods are widely available. The different types of
pregnancy denial and neonaticide are described and the still debated
etiopathogenic hypotheses are reviewed. There is the absence of the
physical changes of pregnancy at the time of the denial such as
cessation of menstruation, abdominal swelling or perception of fetal
movements (3).
Using judicial files on neonaticides, the frequency of the
association between neonaticide and denial of pregnancy; the
accuracy of the concept of denial of pregnancy; its usefulness in
programs to prevent neonaticides were examined. Quantitative and
qualitative analyses of data collected from judicial files during a
population-based study carried out in 26 courts in 3 regions of France
over a 5-year period. There were 32 cases of neonaticides identified;
24, perpetrated by 22 mothers, were solved by police investigation.
Aged 26 years on average, the mothers had occupations that
resembled those of the general population and 17 had jobs, 13 were
multiparous and 11 lived in a couple relationship. No effective
contraception was used by women in 20 cases. Psychopathology was
rare but mothers shared a personality profile marked by immaturity,
dependency, weak self esteem, absence of affective support,
psychological isolation and poor communication with partners. No
pregnancy was registered nor prenatal care followed. Two (perhaps
3) pregnancies were undiscovered until delivery. No typical denial of
47
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
pregnancy was observed in the other cases. Pregnancies were
experienced in secrecy, with conflicting feelings of desire and
rejection of the infant and an inability to ask for help. Those around
the mothers, often aware of the pregnancy offered none. In the
absence of parallel clinical data, it is impractical to calculate the
frequency of the association between neonaticide and denial of
pregnancy. The data show that the term 'denial of pregnancy' cannot
fully reflect the complexity of emotions and feelings by all
perpetrators of neonaticide and is used differently by different
professionals. The term itself and its excessive generalization
contribute to pathologizing women while absolving those around
them has little operational value in preventing neonaticides. The
authors suggest rethinking the terms presently used to describe the
phenomenon of pregnancy denial (4).
Several cases of neonaticide resulting from a denial of pregnancy
were reported in the press. Recently, a case of neonaticide made
headlines in Belgium: a woman realized that she was pregnant during
childbirth. A few minutes after the delivery, the baby was
asphyxiated to death. In the obstetric history of the patient, six
pregnancies were noted, of which three births were given to
anonymous adoption. Mrs D. was not able to explain why she was
not using any method of contraception despite all of her pregnancies.
Questions need to be asked in order to further understand denial of
pregnancy. Do these women understand the link between sexual
intercourse and the potential of pregnancy? Which women are more
at risk of denying their pregnancy? Is there a certain personality
profile at risk? The case of Mrs D. was presented to the consultation
of the clinic of CHU Mont-Godinne (Belgium). The literature available
on the online databases (PubMed, PsycArticles, PsycInfo and
Cairn.info) was evaluated using the following keywords: denial of
pregnancy, neonaticide, contraception. Most women who have had
a denial of pregnancy were not using any method of contraception.
This observation suggests the hypothesis of a denial of fertility in
these women. A specific personality profile is difficult to establish,
due to the lack of sufficient data and the discrepancy of the results
concerning these women, especially in the matters of age and socio-
economic status. However, some psychological characteristics are
similar. The denial of pregnancy is a complex mechanism, which still
raises questions in the clinical setting and in matters of
48
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
etiopathogenesis. In these patients, denial is a defense mechanism
regularly used, even in other aspects of their lives. The frequent non-
use of contraceptive method might therefore be more in favor of a
denial of fertility than of a denial of pregnancy (5).
The psychosocial factors of neonaticide, especially the
circumstances before delivery, the relationships of the pregnant
women, and their social environment awareness of women's
pregnancy were evaluated. All known neonaticides in Austria and
Finland between 1995 and 2005 were evaluated. Cases (n=28) were
obtained by screening the death certificates from coroner's
departments and by analyzing them along with all further available
reports. Few women (17.9%, 5/28) admitted their pregnancy to
others. Although most (16/28) offenders were in a relationship, the
partner had knowledge of the pregnancy in only three cases. The
main motive for negation of the pregnancy (named in 60.8% of cases)
was fear of abandonment/negative response from others. The
fertility rate among the women was high, but half of those with
children had lost the custody of them. In neonaticide, the lack of
awareness surrounding offenders' pregnancy, as well as the
awareness of social environment, is more relevant than any other
social variable (6).
Concealment of pregnancy and newborn infant abandonment are
closely associated with neonaticide, the killing of an infant within the
first 24 hours of life or less than 28-30 days depending on the
jurisdiction. Abandonment of newborn infants occurs throughout
the world and often the outcome for the infant is death. Together
with neonaticide it is felt to be one of the least preventable crimes.
All forensically known Danish cases of abandoned newborn infant
corpses, covered the period from 1997 to 2008. Eleven newborn
infant corpses were found; characteristics of the newborn infants and
the circumstances of the cases based on autopsy reports were
registered. One further newborn infant was included, dating back to
1992, as it was connected with one of the later cases. The mean age
of the women who abandoned their newborn infants was 22 years,
and five of the autopsied newborn infants were probably alive when
abandoned. In two cases the newborn infants were half siblings and
abandoned by the same mother. The time span from abandonment
to when the newborn infant was found ranged from hours to 7 years.
Two-thirds of the newborn infants were girls (66.6%). The most
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Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
common means of disposal was in a plastic bag (~60%); only one
newborn infant was wearing clothes when found. Causes of death
were usually given as asphyxia, brain injury or simply undetermined.
Two-thirds of the newborn infants showed signs of violence. None of
the newborn infants had congenital malformations (7).
Childbirth after denial or concealment of pregnancy has an
increased risk of mortality for both mother and child.
Interdisciplinary cooperation between professional groups is needed
to explore the psychological and criminological aspects of infanticide.
The case of a primipara mother, who threw her mature and viable
newborn from the 10th floor of a high-rise building shortly after a
concealed pregnancy, is reported (8).
References
1. Roman dead baby 'brothel' mystery deepens. Available 20 October 2016 at
http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-14401305.
2. Lee AC, Li CH, Kwong NS, So KT. Neonaticide, newborn abandonment, and
denial of pregnancy - newborn victimisation associated with unwanted motherhood.
Hong Kong Med J. 2006;12(1):61-4.
3. Seigneurie AS, Limosin F. Denial of pregnancy and neonaticide:
psychopathological and clinical features. Rev Med Interne. 2012;33(11):635-9.
4. Vellut N, Cook JM, Tursz A. Analysis of the relationship between neonaticide
and denial of pregnancy using data from judicial files. Child Abuse Negl. 2012;36(7-
8):553-63.
5. Struye A, Zdanowicz N, Ibrahim C, Reynaert C. Can denial of pregnancy be a
denial of fertility? A case discussion. Psychiatr Danub. 2013;25 Suppl 2:S113-7.
6. Amon S, Putkonen H, Weizmann-Henelius G, et al. Potential predictors in
neonaticide: the impact of the circumstances of pregnancy. Arch Womens Ment
Health. 2012;15(3):167-74.
7. Gheorghe A, Banner J, Hansen SH, et al. Abandonment of newborn infants: a
Danish forensic medical survey 1997-2008. Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2011;7(4):317-
21.
8. Schröder AS, Görndt J, Püschel K. Infanticide by throwing the child from the
10th floor of a building. Arch Kriminol. 2009;224(1-2):53-9.
PSYCHOLOGICAL
Evolutionary psychology has proposed theories for different forms
of infanticide. Infanticide by stepfathers, as well as child abuse in
general by stepfathers, has been explained by spending resources on
not genetically related children reducing reproductive success.
Infanticide is one of the few forms of violence more often done by
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Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
women than men. Cross-cultural research have found that this is
more likely to occur when the child has deformities or illnesses as
well as when there are lacking resources due to factors such as
poverty, other children requiring resources, and no male support.
Such a child may have a low chance of reproductive success in which
case it would decrease the mother's inclusive fitness, in particular
since women generally have a greater parental investment than men,
to spend resources on the child (1).
A minority of academics subscribe to an alternate school of
thought, considering the practice as "early infanticidal childrearing"
(2). They attribute parental infanticidal wishes to massive projection
or displacement of the parents' unconscious onto the child, because
of intergenerational, ancestral abuse by their own parents (3). An
infanticidal parent may have multiple motivations, conflicts,
emotions, and thoughts about their baby and their relationship with
their baby, which are often colored both by their individual
psychology, current relational context and attachment history, and,
perhaps most saliently, their psychopathology. Parents with
fantasies, projections, and delusions involving infanticide need to be
taken seriously and assessed carefully, whenever possible, by an
interdisciplinary team that includes infant mental health specialists or
mental health practitioners who have experience in working with
parents, children, and families (4).
In addition to debates over the morality of infanticide itself, there
is some debate over the effects of infanticide on surviving children,
and the effects of childrearing in societies that sanction infanticide.
Some argue that the practice of infanticide in any widespread form
causes enormous psychological damage in children (2). Even
infanticidal mothers in New Guinea, who ate a child, did not affect
the personality development of the surviving children; that "these
are good mothers who eat their own children" (5). There are,
however, extensive negative effects.
The impact of infant colic on the emotional state of the mother
was examined. Subjects were 23 pairs of mothers and their colicky
infants. Structured interviews were conducted with mothers to elicit
details around the colic episode and included 1] the emotional state
experienced by the mother, 2] the quality and content of the
mother's fantasies in response to her infant, and 3] the emotional
impact on the parents. Explicit aggressive thoughts and fantasies
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Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
were revealed by 16 (70%) of the mothers while six (26%) admitted
thoughts of infanticide during their infant's colic episodes, a finding
notable because previously this has not been documented in medical
literature. All mothers experienced physical and psychological
symptoms in response to their infant's colic. More than 90% noted
significant marital tension and disruption in their social contacts. The
findings suggest that physician receptivity and skill in uncovering the
physical and psychological impact of colic on parents is essential for
the physical and emotional well-being of the family. Active support
and counseling by physicians is critical to diminish any potential for
abuse and infanticide in these infants (6).
References
1. Liddle JR, Shackelford TK, WeekesShackelford VA. Why can't we all just get
along? Evolutionary perspectives on violence, homicide, and war. Rev Gen Psychol.
2012;16: 2436.
2. deMause Lloyd. The Emotional Life of Nations. NY, London: Karnak. 2002,
pp. 258262.
3. Godwin, Robert W. One cosmos under God. Minnesota: Paragon House.
2004, pp. 124176.
4. Almeida A, Merminod G, Schechter DS. Mothers with severe psychiatric
illness and their newborns: a hospital-based model of perinatal consultation. Journal
of ZERO-TO-THREE: National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families.
2009;29(5):40-46. Available 26 October 2016 at https://no.wikipedia.org/wiki/
F%C3%B8dselsdepresjon.
5. Róheim Géza. Psychoanalysis and Anthropology. NY: International
Universities Press. 1950, pp. 602.
6. Levitzky S, Cooper R. Infant colic syndrome--maternal fantasies of aggression
and infanticide. Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2000;39(7):395-400.
MENTAL DISORDERS. There is the relatively high incidence of
PTSD symptoms in women during the birth delivery process and
afterwards, even in uncomplicated births. This phenomenon,
however, has yet to be linked with cases of neonaticide (child
homicide in the first 24 hours of life) or infanticide (child homicide
within the 1st year of life). Women are more likely to experience
mental disorder after childbirth than at any other time in their lives,
and the intentional killing of an offspring by a mentally ill mother is
likely underreported. The immediate postpartum period is a time of
heightened vigilance by health providers and, when the tragic death
of an infant occurs, forensic professionals should specifically assess
for PTSD. As an illustration, the authors present a case of maternal
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Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
neonaticide that was directly linked to PTSD without any other
concomitant mental disorder. PTSD is a viable mitigating factor to be
examined in legal defenses of infanticide either in isolation or in
conjunction with other factors (1).
Parental killing of their children in the 1st year constitutes a rare
phenomenon. Reports on infanticide show that mothers who kill
their children are frequently psychiatrically disturbed. Depression is
the most common postpartum disorder and may represent a vital
danger for both mother and child. The association between
depression and infanticide can usually be explained by maternal
psychopathologic symptoms. The importance of a mother's bonding
to her infant has not often been examined in respect to infanticide.
The present case report underlines the importance of postpartum
bonding disorder and its relation to a higher risk of infanticide (2).
Postpartum psychosis is also a causative factor of infanticide.
There are connections between some cases of infanticide and post-
partum depression (3,4). The Books, From Cradle to Grave (5) and
The Death of Innocents (6) describe selected cases of maternal
infanticide and the investigative research of Professor Asch working
in concert with the New York City Medical Examiner's Office. Stanley
Hopwood wrote that childbirth and lactation entail severe stress on
the female sex and that under certain circumstances attempts at
infanticide and suicide are common (7). Of filicidal fathers, 44% had
a diagnosis of psychosis (8). In addition to postpartum psychosis,
dissociative psychopathology and sociopathy are associated with
neonaticide in some cases. In addition, severe postpartum
depression can lead to infanticide (9).
In the Netherlands, between 1992 and 2001 there were 70
reported cases of child murder by parents, the total number of
victims being 86. The crime of filicide is rare but has enormous
impact on society. The proportion and type of psychiatric disorders
in perpetrators of filicide was investigated. Literature search by
means of PubMed, Embase Psychiatry and PsychInfo on the basis of
the search terms filicide, neonaticide, infanticide, gender, psychiatric
disorder. Perpetrators of filicide were found to have many types of
psychiatric disorders. The most frequent types of diagnostic
categories were affective disorders with or without psychotic
features. The second most frequent type was schizophrenia. There
was a considerable overlap between these disorders, personality
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Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
disorders and symptoms of drug-dependence. Often perpetrators
were also found to have lower-than-average intelligence. The data
show that a psychiatric disorder in one or both parents constitutes a
major risk factor for child murder by parents. The identification of
other risk factors and their possible interrelatedness is important for
our understanding of these criminal acts, for the detection of warning
signs and for the development of preventive strategies (10).
A sample (n=55) of filicidal mothers was examined to compare
those with and without psychotic symptoms at the time of the
filicide. Clinical data were gathered through retrospective chart
review of filicidal women referred for criminal
responsibility/competence to stand trial evaluations from 1974 to
1996 at Michigan's Center for Forensic Psychiatry. Most (52.7%)
women had psychotic symptoms at the time of filicide. Women with
psychosis were more likely than those without to have a history of
substance abuse; to have past and ongoing psychiatric treatment;
and to be older, unemployed, more educated, and divorced or
separated. They were less likely to be first time mothers or to have
had prior contact with Children's Protective Services. The psychotic
mothers more often confessed, attempted suicide at the time of the
filicide, used weapons, killed multiple children, and expressed
homicidal thoughts and/or concerns about their children to
psychiatrists and family before the filicide. Psychotic women were as
likely as nonpsychotic women to have used alcohol or illegal drugs at
the time of the filicide (11).
Most child victims of homicide are killed by a parent or step-
parent. A contemporary and detailed description of filicide
perpetrators is provided. The relationship between filicide and
mental illness was examined at the time of the offence, and care
received from mental health services in the past. All filicide and
filicide-suicide cases in England and Wales (1997-2006) were drawn
from a national index of homicide perpetrators. Data on people in
contact with mental health services were obtained via a
questionnaire from mental health teams. Additional clinical
information was collected from psychiatric reports; 6,144 people
were convicted of homicide, 297 were filicides, 45 cases were filicide-
suicides; 195 (66%) perpetrators were fathers. Mothers were more
likely than fathers to have a history of mental disorder (66% vs. 27%)
and symptoms at the time of the offence (53% vs. 23%), most often
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affective disorder. Of mothers, 17% had schizophrenia or other
delusional disorders. Overall, 8% had schizophrenia. While 37%
were mentally ill at the time of the offence, 20% had previously been
in contact with mental health services, 12% within a year of the
offence. The data indicate that in the majority of cases, mental
illness was not a feature of filicide. However, young mothers and
parents with severe mental illness, especially affective and
personality disorder who are providing care for children, require
careful monitoring by mental health and other support services (12).
The connection between maternal filicide and major psychiatric
disorders based on international literature was examined, and
analysis of filicides perpetrated by women and ending with
compulsory medical treatment based on a not guilty by reason of
insanity verdict was conducted. For the purpose of the analysis cases
were collected back to 1993 from the archives of the Forensic
Observation and Psychiatric Institution, when a female perpetrator
committed homicide against her blood-related offspring, after which
she spent her compulsory medical treatment in the Institution.
Fourteen cases were only descriptively analyzed due to the low
number of cases. Data were collected through overview of the
documentation of the patients. Several factors including
demographic characteristics of the victims, characteristics of the
homicidal act, demographic and psychiatric characteristics of the
perpetrators were analyzed. The results show interesting findings in
the field of gender distribution of the victims. In relation to suicide
risk, the results concur with previous findings pointing out its strong
connection with filicide. The findings point out the relevance of
schizoaffective disorder, as it was the most frequent diagnosis in the
cases (13).
A sample of patients with a puerperal psychosis of an early
manifestation is investigated in respect of special risks of suicide and
infanticide. During a 20-year period 96 patients who had been fallen
ill with a puerperal psychosis within four weeks after delivery were
admitted to a psychiatric university hospital. Patients with an acute
exacerbation of a known schizophrenic disorder were excluded. In a
subgroup of 37 patients, a previous (affective, bipolar affective)
psychotic illness was recorded already before the puerperal index
episode; in a subgroup of 59 patients puerperal psychosis was the
first manifestation of a psychotic illness. Suicide- and infanticide-
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Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
relevant psychopathological symptoms were analyzed (suicidal
ideas/behavior before/during inpatient treatment, general
disorganized aggression, psychotic anxieties related to baby,
infanticidal obsessions, aggressive ideas/behavior towards baby,
neglect, and infanticidal impulses). Puerperal psychoses were
distributed to the diagnostic categories of psychotic depressive
disorder, bipolar affective disorder, and schizoaffective disorder. Six
patients died due to suicide, tragically already some few days till
weeks after discharge from psychiatric hospital, despite a
pronounced or even complete remission of puerperal psychotic
symptoms at the time of discharge. Three patients committed an
extended suicide attempt that resulted in two infanticides. All
isolated and extended suicides were committed in a state of
depressive mood and presumably synthymic delusion. The data
indicate that suicidal ideas and behavior play a major role in patients
with puerperal psychosis before and during inpatient treatment. An
increased risk for mothers and babies may persist, however, even
after a seemingly good symptomatic remission. Besides the clinical
challenge of general prevention of puerperal psychosis the request of
adequate models of inpatient treatment, carefully prepared
discharge, close after discharge follow up, and continuous outpatient
care have to be stressed (14).
A case report describes a 30-year-old mother of four with a 6-year
history of obvious paranoia and psychosis from a poor rural farming
community in India. Her symptoms and social functioning
deteriorated over time, but the family did not seek medical care until
she killed her 3-month-old daughter while under the influence of
command hallucinations. Subsequent treatment with antipsychotic
medication resulted in control of her psychotic symptoms and greatly
improved psychosocial functioning. This case is an example of one of
the many negative consequences of a community's failure to
recognize and treat mental illnesses. The patient had symptoms that
were obvious to all for 6 years prior to the infanticide, but the
family's lack of basic knowledge about mental illness, the lack of
locally available mental health care, and the relatively high cost of
care prevented family members from obtaining the treatment that
almost certainly would have prevented the tragic death of her infant.
Changing these three factors in poor rural communities of low- and
middle-income countries is the challenge we must work together to
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Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
address. Infanticide secondary to untreated mental illness is a glaring
reminder of how urgent this task is (15).
Infanticide is an extremely traumatic criminal act, which has
psychopathologic repercussions and sociofamilial consequences. It is
marked by its plurality of forms, the variety of its aspects and the
frequency of its hidden cases. Circumstances and modes of
completion of the infanticide act are variable according to the nature
of the author and the sociocultural context. Infanticide is often
situated within the framework of an acute and a chronic structured
psychiatric pathology (puerperal psychosis, maniacodepressive
psychosis, schizophrenia, epilepsy, substance abuse, etc.).
Sometimes, it is connected to sociocultural constraints and
confusions of adaptation of the postpartum stage. The
psychopathologic justifications evoke a profound dysfunction of the
mother-child interactions, fears of division and the infantile and
regressive characteristics of the mother. The medicolegal issue of
responsibility of the author of infanticide is complex. Treatment
depends on the mental pathology, and psychotherapeutic efforts are
required in parallel with pharmacological treatment. The role of
psychiatrists in preventing the act of infanticide is crucial. This
consists in detecting the populations at risk, identifying the
psychiatric complications of the postpartum stage and ensuring an
adequate coordination of the maternity team and the social services.
Case Report: the infanticide acts reported in the literature are
situated in diverse contexts and are motivated by various
circumstances. A case of a young woman without any personal or
family psychiatric history is reported; she is married and has a stable
matrimonial life. She was hospitalized following a suicide attempt
and subsequently killed her child by strangulation; this occurred ten
days after giving birth. The murder took place during a first psychotic
episode that arose brutally one week after delivery and essentially
included persecution mania, inconsistent comments, auditive
hallucinations, indifference and emotional coolness. This
symptomatology lasted four months and totally regressed with
antipsychotics. The diagnosis of a puerperal psychosis was evoked at
first, having eliminated major melancholic depression and any
organic affection. The illustration of clinical case shows to what
extent the role of the psychiatrist is essential in preventing and
ensuring the therapeutic stage of such psychiatric disorders arising
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Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
during the postpartum stage, which would complicate infanticide acts
at any time (16).
The parental killing of children constitutes a complex
phenomenon which has been reported across numerous cultures and
throughout history. Children in the 1st year of life are at the highest
risk of filicide. Types of filicide in the postpartum period include
altruistic filicide, extended suicide, fatal child maltreatment, and
neonaticide. Babies are murdered more frequently by mothers who
are psychiatrically disturbed. With high frequency, depressive and
psychotic symptoms are related to the newborn or to the maternity
itself. The knowledge about maternal factors associated with filicide
is not homogeneous (17).
References
1. Nesca M, Dalby JT. Maternal neonaticide following traumatic childbirth: a
case study. Int J Offender Ther Comp Criminol. 2011;55(7):1166-78.
2. Hornstein C, Trautmann-Villalba P. Infanticide as a consequence of
postpartum bonding disorder. Nervenarzt. 2007;78(5):580-3.
3. Asch SS. Crib deaths: their possible relationship to post-partum depression
and infanticide. J Mt Sinai Hosp N Y. 2013;35: 21420.
4. Asch SS, Rubin LJ. Postpartum reactions: some unrecognized variations. 2013.
Am J Psychiatry. 2013;131:8704.
5. Egginton Joyce. From Cradle to Grave. The Short Lives and Strange Deaths of
Marybeth Tinning's Nine Children. William Morrow, New York. 1989.
6. Richard Firstman and Jamie Talan. The Death of Innocents. Bantam, New
York. 1997.
7. Hopwood Stanley J. Child murder and insanity. J Clin Exp Psychopathol.
1927;73:96.
8. Spinelli MG. A systematic investigation of 16 cases of neonaticide. Am J
Psychiatry. 2001;158(5): 8113. .
9. Almond P. Postnatal depression: a global public health perspective. Perspect
Public Health. 2009;129(5):2217.
10. Dil LM, Doreleijers TA, Schoevers RA. Filicide; psychiatric disorders in
parents who murder their children - a literature review. Tijdschr Psychiatr. 2008;
50(5):263-72.
11. Lewis CF, Bunce SC. Filicidal mothers and the impact of psychosis on
maternal filicide. J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2003;31(4):459-70.
12. Flynn SM, Shaw JJ, Abel KM. Filicide: mental illness in those who kill their
children. PLoS One. 2013;8(4):e58981.
13. Lehoczki Á, Lukács-Miszler K. Major psychiatric disorders and filicide: a
descriptive analysis of filicides perpetrated by women with psychotic mental illness.
Psychiatr Hung. 2013;28(2):145-58.
14. Kapfhammer HP, Lange P. Suicidal and infanticidal risks in puerperal
psychosis of an early onset. Neuropsychiatr. 2012;26(3):129-38.
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15. Saha R, Singh SM, Nischal A. Infanticide by a mother with untreated
schizophrenia. Shanghai Arch Psychiatry. 2015;27(5):311-4.
16. Rammouz I, Tahiri DA, Aalouane R, et al. Infanticide in the postpartum
period: about a clinical case. Encephale. 2008;34(3):284-8.
17. Trautmann-Villalba P, Hornstein C. Children murdered by their mothers in
the postpartum period. Nervenarzt. 2007;78(11):1290-5.
SEX SELECTION
Sex selection is possibly one of the contributing factors of
infanticide. In the absence of sex-selective abortion, sex-selective
infanticide can be deduced from skewed birth statistics. The
biologically normal sex ratio for humans at birth is approximately 105
males per 100 females; normal ratios hardly ranging beyond 102-108
(1). When a society has an infant male to female ratio which is
significantly higher or lower than the biological norm, and biased
data can be ruled out, sex selection can usually be inferred (2).
Infanticide today continues at a much higher rate in areas of
extremely high poverty and overpopulation, such as parts of China
and India (3). Female infants are particularly vulnerable, a factor in
sex-selective infanticide. Recent estimates suggest that over 100
million girls and women are 'missing' in Asia (4).
The low social status of women and the preference for sons
determine a high rate of sex-selective abortion or, more specifically,
female feticide, in South Asian countries. Although each of them,
irrespective of its abortion policy, strictly condemns sex-selective
abortion, data suggest high rates of such procedures in India, Nepal,
China and Bangladesh. The current situation of sex-selective
abortion, and the laws related to it and the factors contributing to its
occurrence within these countries indicate that that sex selective
abortion is a public health issue as it contributes to high maternal
mortality. Abortion policies of South Asian countries vary greatly and
this influences the frequency of reporting of cases. Several socio-
economic factors are responsible for sex-selective abortion including
gender discriminating cultural practices, irrational national
population policies and unethical use of technology. Wide social
change promoting women's status in society should be instituted
whereby women are offered more opportunities for better health,
education and economic participation through gender sensitive
policies and programs. A self-regulation of the practices in the
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Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
medical profession and among communities must be achieved
through behavioral change campaigns (5).
The epidemic of gender selection is ravaging countries like India
and China. Approximately fifty million women are "missing" in the
Indian population. Generally, three principle causes are responsible:
female infanticide, better food and health care for boys and maternal
death at childbirth. Prenatal sex determination and the abortion of
female fetuses threaten to skew the sex ratio to new highs.
Estimates of the number of female fetuses being destroyed every
year in India vary from two million to five million (6).
Survival chances of girls in parts of South and East Asia have been
adverse. Female feticide, infanticide, abandonment, out-adoption,
under-reporting of female births, and selective neglect of girls leading
to higher death rates, have contributed to this adversity. There is an
observed skewed sex ratio at birth in rural West Bengal, with female
feticide, infanticide, son preference, and abortion. More boys are
recorded at birth, and the majority of women desire sons.
Trajectories of selective neglect of and discrimination against
daughters have been researched extensively, but the related issues
of female feticide and infanticide have been less examined (7).
There are 44 million missing women in India. Gender bias; neglect
of girls, infanticides and feticides are responsible. The sex ratio at
birth can be used to examine the influence of antenatal sex selection
on the sex ratio. Records from 321,991 deliveries at one hospital
over 11 decades were utilized. The middle year in each decade was
taken as representative of the decade. Data from 33,524 deliveries
were then analyzed. Data for each decade was combined with that
of previous decades and compared to the data of subsequent
decades to look for any change in the trend. Sex ratio in the second
children against sex of the first child was studied separately. The
mean sex ratio for the 110 years examined was 910 girls to 1000 boys
(95% CI 891-930). The sex ratio dropped significantly from 935 (95%
CI 905-967) before 1979, to 892 (95% CI 868-918) after 1980
(p=0.04). The sex ratio in the second child was significantly lower if
the first child was a girl [716 (95% CI 672-762] (p<0.001). On the
other hand, there was an excess of girls born to mothers whose first
child was boy [1140 girls per 1000 boys (95% CI 1072-1212,
p<0.001)]. Thus, the sex ratio fell significantly after 1980 when ultra
sound machines for antenatal sex determination became available.
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Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
The sex ratio in second children if the first was a girl was even lower.
Sex selective abortions after antenatal sex determination are
implicated. However, data on second children especially the excess of
girls born to mothers who have a previous boy seen in the decade
before the advent of antenatal ultra sound machines, suggests that
other means of sex selection are also used (8).
Women are murdered all over the world. But in India a most
brutal form of killing females takes place regularly, even before they
have the opportunity to be born. Female feticide, the selective
abortion of female fetuses, is killing upwards of one million females
in India annually with far-ranging and tragic consequences. In some
areas, the sex ratio of females to males has dropped to less than
8000:1000. Females not only face inequality in this culture, they are
even denied the right to be born. Why do so many families
selectively abort baby daughters? In a word: Economics. Aborting
female fetuses is both practical and socially acceptable. Female
feticide is driven by many factors, but primarily by the prospect of
having to pay a dowry to the future bridegroom of a daughter. While
sons offer security to their families in old age and can perform the
rites for the souls of deceased parents and ancestors, daughters are
perceived as a social and economic burden. Prenatal sex detection
technologies have been misused, allowing the selective abortions of
female offspring to proliferate. Legally, however, female feticide is a
penal offence. Although female infanticide has long been committed
in India, feticide is a relatively new practice, emerging concurrently
with the advent of technological advancements in prenatal sex
determination on a large scale in the 1990s. While abortion is legal,
it is a crime to abort a pregnancy solely because the fetus is female.
Strict laws and penalties are in place for violators. These laws,
however, have not stemmed the tide of this abhorrent practice (9).
In the past in India, a strong preference for sons made unwanted
female infants susceptible to infanticide at the hands of midwives.
Today, amniocentesis, which allows identification of sex in utero, has
led to abortion of unwanted female fetuses. The incidence of this
practice is revealed by the presence of an adverse sex ratio in many
states. Amniocentesis was developed to detect genetic
abnormalities, and the process is associated with the risk of
miscarriage, septicemia, misinterpretation of results, and maternal
death. While pregnancy possibly is legally terminated in India up to
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Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
12 weeks' gestation, amniocentesis takes place at 16 weeks. It is
difficult, if not impossible, however, to prove that parents are guilty
of female feticide. In some states, parents who cannot afford
amniocentesis are continuing the practice of female infanticide. The
Indian government should act to control female feticide.
Amniocentesis should take place only within government-run
institutions, and the sex of the child should never be revealed to
parents. A massive educational effort will be required to modify
belief that it is only sons who can make necessary offerings after the
death of a parent (10).
In strongly patriarchal societies, where the cultural and economic
value of sons is at a premium, son preference manifests itself in many
ways, ranging from differential allocation of household resources,
medical care and neglect of girl children to female infanticide. With
the increasing availability of ultrasound in the mid-1980s sex
determination followed by sex-selective abortion began to become
widespread as well. The following paper introduces this Roundtable
and discusses the following questions: Is sex selection a part of
women's right to free choice and control over their reproduction?
What is the role of the medical profession? Are all manifestations of
sex selection equally unethical? Are there solutions? Do the
solutions themselves pose new ethical dilemmas? Following this
Paper, four respondents put different points of view on sex selection
as a gender-based preference for a pregnancy; progress in getting the
Supreme Court of India to implement a 1994 law regulating the use
of antenatal diagnostic technology; why sex selection should be
available as a form of reproductive choice; and why sex selection may
be empowering for women and justify their actions in the short run,
given the demands on them. All agree that only improved status for
women and girls will reduce the demand for sex selection (11).
The preference for a son continues to be a prevalent norm in the
traditional Indian household. This is evident from the declining sex
ratio which has dropped to alarming levels, especially in the northern
states according to Census 2001 reports. The proliferation and abuse
of advanced technologies coupled with social factors contributing to
the low status of women such as dowry, concerns with family name
and looking up to the son as a breadwinner has made the evil
practice of female feticide to become common in the middle and
higher socioeconomic households, especially in the northern states.
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Despite the existence of the Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques Act,
there is a dire need to strengthen this law since the number of
convictions is despairingly low as compared to the burden posed by
this crime. It is necessary to gear efforts against the cultural,
economic and religious roots of this social malady by woman
empowerment and intensive Information, Education and
Communication campaigns. The medical colleges and professional
bodies have a vital role to play by sensitizing medical students who
are the doctors of tomorrow (12).
Factors accountable for the continuing imbalance in the sex ratio
and its further masculinization over the whole of the 20th century
are examined. It is contended that the traditional practice of female
infanticide and the current practice of female feticide in the
contemporary period, especially in the north-west and Hindi-
speaking states, have significantly contributed to the high masculinity
ratio in India. In addition, increasingly higher survival ratios of male
children, particularly from the 1951 census onward, have been the
prime reason for a declining proportion of females in the Indian
population. As the Indian value system has been imbued with a
relatively higher preference for sons, improvements in health
facilities have benefited males more than females, giving rise to a
highly imbalanced sex ratio in the country. This scenario has steadily
tended to alter in favor of greater balance in sex ratio (13).
Juvenile sex ratios, juvenile mortality, women's work roles and
marriage patterns in Pakistan and Bangladesh were examined in
order to assess whether patterns previously observed in India,
namely, daughter neglect in the northwest and equal juvenile sex
ratios in the eastern part of the country, are carried over into the 2
adjacent nations, Pakistan and Bangladesh, respectively. The Indian
study indicates that nationwide sex ratio data, sample survey data on
childhood mortality, longitudinal population records in several
locations and ethonographic evidence all point to inequalities in
mortality as the prime cause of unbalanced sex ratios. The juvenile
sex ratios of Pakistan and Bangladesh are very different from 1
another. Whereas there are no regional contrasts among juvenile sex
ratios within Bangladesh, it is greater within Pakistan. Sex ratio data
correspond roughly to what the mortality data indicate in terms of
the contrast between Pakistan and Bangladesh. The evidence on
juvenile mortality in both countries is too scant to support an airtight
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Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
argument that juvenile females in Pakistan have much higher
mortality rates than boys, while mortality rates are more balanced in
Bangladesh. But the existing evidence clearly points to that
conclusion. Biased allocation of food, medical care, and love might be
operating. Looking at the economic and sociocultural complex that
promotes many differences between Pakistan and Bangladesh, it is
argued that, in both countries, class-based variations in both
women's work and marriage patterns exist and are important. It is
hypothesized that females in Pakistan are little valued for agricultural
labor, and pose an economic liability on their families who need to
provide a large dowry with her marriage to compensate for the
daughter's low economic utility to the agricultural workforce. Both
agroeconomic and household economic factors would contribute to
an intense preference for sons and a concomitant neglect of
daughters. In Bangladesh, where female labor is highly valued,
marriage costs for daughters would be relatively low. The present
study reveals that, in spite of economic and cultural reasons for son
preference in both Pakistan and Bangladesh, survival of daughters
relative to sons is less impaired in the latter. The direction of change
for both, however, appears toward increased devaluation of
daughters, relative to sons, as tribal groups become settled peasants,
as machines replace women's work functions, and as bride wealth is
transformed into large cash dowries (14).
The Reagan administration refused to recognize the achievements
of China's population program and the practical and humanitarian
considerations which lead to China's adoption of vigorous family
planning policies. China began to express concern about population
growth in 1960, and this concern was, in part, prompted by a severe
famine. The occurrence of the famine was only recently brought to
the attention of the rest of the world when demographers uncovered
statistical evidence indicating that as many as 30 million Chinese may
have perished in the 1958-62 famine. The famine was due both to
faulty agricultural policies and to severe crop damage in 1959 and
1960. The family planning program initiated in 1960 was interrupted
by the Cultural Revolution, and the effort to control population
growth was not reinstituted until the early 1970s. By 1979
childbearing among the postwar baby boom generation boosted
population growth rates to a new high, and the government began
advocating a 1-child family. The national census of 1982 revealed
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Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
that China's population doubled in 1949-1982 and in 1982 exceeded
1 billion. Famine and economic chaos were forecasted for the near
future if population growth was not severely and immediately
curbed. The government responded to this impending threat by
instituting stringent measures to restrict 2nd order births. Abortion
was permitted for cases of contraceptive failure; however, the
government warned that severe penalties would be imposed on
anyone who tried to ensure that their 1 child was a son by practicing
female infanticide, a traditional but illegal practice. The government
admits that some couples, under extreme pressure from local
officials, resorted to infanticide. The Reagan administration used the
infanticide issue to discredit the Chinese population program, and
recently announced its intention to withhold US$10 million in
previously approved funding from the UN Fund for Population
Activities because the agency provided support for China's coercive
population program. The administration also voiced its distorted
preceion of China's program at the 1984 International Conference on
Population. James Buckley, the administration's delegate to the
conference, blamed state controlled economies for interfering with
natural mechanisms for slowing population growth. In reality,
China's progress in controlling population growth accounts for almost
all of the 20% reduction in the world's population growth rate, since
the late 1960s. By slowing the world's population growth rate, China
contributed not only to it own economic well-being but to the
economic well-being of all nations including the US. Yet Reagan
condemns rather than praises China for enduring the hardship of
controlling its fertility (15).
Infanticide may occur in the People's Republic of China due to the
one-child policy (16). In the 1990s, a certain stretch of the Yangtze
River was known to be a common site of infanticide by drowning,
until government projects made access to it more difficult. Over 40
million girls and women are 'missing' in China (17).
ASSESSMENT: risk factors for neonacide, infanticide, and filicide
include child abuse, domestic violence, daughter aversion related to
the perceived economic burden of daughters due to the proliferation
of dowry, denial and concealment of pregnancy.
An infanticidal parent has motivations, conflicts, emotions, and
thoughts about their baby and their relationship with their baby,
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Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
which are often colored both by their individual psychology, current
relational context and attachment history, and, their
psychopathology.
Mothers can experience physical and psychological symptoms in
response to their infant's colic, and marital tension and disruption in
their social contacts.
In the Kassena-Nankana District of Ghana, there is a phenomenon
wherein some children are subject to infanticide because they are
regarded as spirit children sent "from the bush" to cause misfortune
and destroy the family.
Neonacide and infanticide are associated with mental disorders
including PTSD in women during the birth delivery process and
afterwards, even in uncomplicated births, postpartum psychosis, and
affective disorders with or without psychotic features, schizophrenia,
personality disorder, or schizoaffective disorder.
Types of filicide in the postpartum period include altruistic filicide,
extended suicide, fatal child maltreatment, and neonaticide.
Preference for sons determines a high rate of sex-selective
abortion or, more specifically, female feticide, in South Asian
countries.
In the past in India, a strong preference for sons made unwanted
female infants susceptible to infanticide at the hands of midwives.
References
1. Barclay George W. Techniques of Population Analysis. NY: John Wiley &
Sons.1958, p. 83.
2. Josiah Cox Russell. Late Ancient and Medieval Population. 1958, pp. 13-17.
Available 17 October 2016 at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infanticide.
3. Gendercide Watch: Female Infanticide. Available 28 October 2016 at
http://www.gendercide.org/case_infanticide.html.
4. The war on baby girls: Gendercide. The Economist. Available 28 October
2016 at http://www.economist.com/node/15606229.
5. Abrejo FG, Shaikh BT, Rizvi N. 'And they kill me, only because I am a girl'...a
review of sex-selective abortions in South Asia. Eur J Contracept Reprod Health Care.
2009;14(1):10-6.
6. Allahbadia GN. The 50 million missing women. J Assist Reprod Genet.
2002;19(9):411-6.
7. Bandyopadhyay M. Missing girls and son preference in rural India: looking
beyond popular myth. Health Care Women Int. 2003;24(10):910-26.
8. Sahni M, Verma N, Narula D, et al. Missing girls in India: infanticide, feticide
and made-to-order pregnancies? Insights from hospital-based sex-ratio-at-birth over
the last century. PLoS One. 2008;3(5):e2224.
9. Ahmad N. Female feticide in India. Issues Law Med. 2010;26(1):13-29.
66
Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
10. Kaur GB. Female foeticide. A danger to society. Nurs J India.
1996;87(4):77-8.
11. Oomman N, Ganatra BR. Sex selection: the systematic elimination of girls.
Reprod Health Matters. 2002;10(19):184-8.
12. Garg S, Nath A. Female feticide in India: issues and concerns. J Postgrad
Med. 2008;54(4):276-9.
13. Singh JP1. Socio-cultural aspects of the high masculinity ratio in India. J Asian
Afr Stud. 2010;45(6):628-44.
14. Miller BD. Daughter neglect, women's work, and marriage: Pakistan and
Bangladesh compared. Med Anthropol. 1984;8(2):109-26.
15. No authors listed. China's one-child family: a famine-forced decision. ZPG
Report. 1985;17(2):1.
16. China begins to face sex-ratio imbalance, msnbc.com, September 14, 2004.
Available 20 October 2016 at http://www.nbcnews.com/id/5953508#.V_36WPkrJZg.
17. Quanbao Jiang, Marcus W. Feldman, Xiaoyi Jin. Estimation of the Number of
Missing Females in China: 1900-2000. 2005. Available 24 October 2016 at
http://iussp2005.princeton.edu/papers/51345.
TYPES OF FILICIDE
MATERNAL
Maternal filicide is considered the result of significant interactions
between increased individual vulnerability and overwhelming
environmental stress. Whether the biological vulnerability to stress
and psychotic depression in criminally insane filicidal women is
associated with an imbalance of stress-related hormones is
examined. Early-morning plasma levels of hormones associated with
depression and chronic stress, i.e., thyroid hormones, Cortisol and
ACTH were measured in 10 filicidal inpatients recovered in a high-
security psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane and 10 matched
psychiatric, non-filicidal, criminal mothers with comparable
traumatic/abuse records. Filicidal mothers had higher than
normative Cortisol levels and significantly higher ACTH levels than
both the normative values and plasma levels of non-filicidal women.
Levels of thyroid hormones fell within normal ranges, without
between-groups differences. While psychiatric controls had the
expected Cortisol-ACTH positive correlation, mothers who killed their
children revealed no relationship between the two hormones. HPA
in the group of filicide perpetrators was altered despite they had
received antidepressant pharmacological treatment. The imbalance
of HPA axis indicates a possible filicides' reduced sensitivity of the
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Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
adrenal glands to ACTH, probably due to the pre-hospitalization long-
term affective stress which preceded child homicide. The results
reveal the existence of large psycho-biological stress-sensitivity in
filicides, and careful post-discharge psychiatric follow-up of such
women is recommended (1).
The strongest general risk factor identified was a history of
suicidality and depression or psychosis and past use of psychiatric
services. In the general population studies (those that used
administrative records including coroners' reports or national
statistics), mothers at highest risk of filicide were often socially
isolated, indigent, full-time care providers who may have been
victims of domestic violence themselves. Overall, those from the
psychiatric population were married, unemployed, used alcohol, and
had a history of being abused. Women from the correctional
population were more often to be unmarried and unemployed with a
lack of social support, limited education, and a history of substance
use. The literature supported the idea that younger children are at
greater risk for fatal maltreatment (accidental filicide) while older
children are more often the victims of purposeful homicide (2).
Two studies in the literature highlighted the importance of the
mother's own childhood as a factor in her crime. A number of
women who went on to commit filicide received inadequate
mothering secondary to their own mothers being unavailable to
them due to a variety of reasons including alcoholism, absence,
physical or verbal abuse, or mental health problems (3). Another
investigation reviewed the developmental histories of 39 women
who were adjudicated insane following charges of filicide. A total of
38% women had a history of physical and sexual abuse (5% were
incest victims) and 49% were abandoned by their own mothers.
These figures may represent low estimates given that some of the
information about these women was unknown (4).
Several papers have identified certain characteristics found in
mothers who commit filicide (4-9). The number of women evaluated
in each study ranged from 17 to 89. The average age of the women
was 29 years. Two thirds of the women were married. The victim
was, on average, 3.2 years old. Many of the women had psychiatric
diagnoses. A separate paper indicated that those mothers who are
mentally ill were generally older when they committed the filicidal
act, and the children killed by these women were typically older as
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Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
well (10). Based on the six papers, an average of 36.4 percent of
filicidal women attempted or committed suicide. Another paper
showed that 16-29% of all mothers committed suicide following a
filicidal act (11). The most common methods of murder identified
were head trauma, drowning, suffocation, and strangulation. Women
who accidentally killed their young children during an episode of
abuse shared many characteristics with mothers who commit
neonaticide, including being young, poor, unemployed, single, and
without a suicide attempt following the act (9).
Twenty adult women charged with murdering their children who
were referred to a forensic psychiatric hospital for pretrial
evaluation. The demographic, historical, clinical, forensic, and
offense characteristics of these women and their victims to samples
of multinational, British, and Canadian filicidal women were explored.
The data depict a subset of women who suffered from a diagnosable
mental disorder and were contending with many acute stressors in
their lives with apparently insufficient personal resources or systemic
support. The consistency of characteristics across countries suggests
that women who kill their children are nonaddicted, married, low-
income, mentally ill, new or recent mothers under 30 who, acting
alone and without weapons, kill only one of their children, likely of
preschool age (8).
The characteristics of maternal filicide and the adverse life events
experienced by women who have committed filicide and been
hospitalized in forensic psychiatric institutions in Malaysia are
described. Registration records from 2000 through 2012 of female
patients from 2 main forensic psychiatric institutions in Malaysia
were reviewed. The medical records of patients who had committed
maternal filicide were selected and descriptively evaluated. A total of
18 cases of maternal filicide were identified. Family dysfunction that
presented with marital discord, domestic violence, or husband with
substance abuse was the main stress experienced by the women.
Social circumstances included an adolescent who became a victim of
date rape, immigrants who experienced sexual abuse and filicide-
suicide were precipitated by financial difficulties. The data indicate
that women who committed filicide had experienced difficulties in
their life. The presence of such life events might alert mental health
professionals to investigate the possibility of filicide among their
patients (12).
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Ben-Nun Neonaticide, Infanticide, Filicide
Different motivational factors, leading mothers to commit
neonaticidal, infanticidal or filicidal acts were examined. Data were
gathered through a retrospective chart review of all filicidal women