AskDefine | Define filicide

User Contributed Dictionary



Derived from Latin filius meaning "son" + English -cide


  1. A person who kills his or her own son, or more generally, child.
  2. The killing of one's own child.

Usage notes

Infanticide the the usual English term, especially if the victim is at or near infancy. Filicide implies specifically the killing of one's own son or daughter, especially biological and if the victim lived past infancy.

Extensive Definition

Filicide is the deliberate act of a parent killing his or her own son or daughter. The term can also be applied to the parent who has committed such an act. The word filicide derives from the Latin word filius meaning "son".
In some cultures, killing a daughter who is deemed to have disgraced the family is a common occurrence (see honor killing).
A 1999 US Department of Justice Study concluded that between 1976 and 1997 in the U.S., mothers were responsible for a higher share of children killed during infancy while fathers were more likely to have been responsible for the murders of children age 8 or older. Furthermore, 52% of the children killed by their mothers were male (maternal filicide), while 57% of the children killed by their fathers were male (paternal filicide).
Sometimes there is a combination of murder and suicide in filicide cases.
A number of academics attribute it, both modern and historical, to psychological inability to raise children. Contemporary data suggests that modern filicide is sometimes brought about by a psychological unreadiness to raise children. It could also be exacerbated by schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. It is also attributed, in some cases, to the desire of unwed, underage parents to conceal their sexual relations and/or avoid the responsibility of childrearing. It is attributed in other cases to a strong feeling of alienation or genetic disaffection; in such cases other children are not thought to be at risk and the mother often takes on a new role in child care .

Known or suspected filicides

  • Karen McCarron is suspected of smothering her three-year-old autistic daughter, Katie.
  • Lucius Sergius Catilina, the notorious Roman insurrectionist was said to have murdered his only son to persuade Aurelia Orestilla to marry him.
  • Neil Entwistle - Was charged in the January 2006 killing of his baby daughter Lillian in Hopkinton, MA - (infanticide).
  • Marvin Pentz Gaye, Sr. shot his son, singer Marvin Gaye, during an argument in Los Angeles, California, in 1984. He was sent to a rest home for the rest of his life.
  • Susan Smith drowned her two sons Michael and Alex in a maroon Mazda Protegé in Union, South Carolina, in 1994. She was sentenced to life in prison in Union, South Carolina, in 1995.
  • Andrea Yates - Drowned her five children in a bathtub in 2001, in Clear Lake City, Texas, due to postpartum depression and other mental disorders. She was sentenced to life in prison in Gatesville, Texas in 2002, but the sentence was later overturned and was found not guilty by reason of insanity. She is now committed to a mental hospital.
  • Bradford Bishop bludgeoned his three children, spouse and mother to death in 1976. He was indicted for murders and remains at large.
  • Debora Green burned two of her three children to death in an arson attack, out of fear she would lose custody of them to her estranged husband Michael Farrar. Sentenced to life imprisonment.
  • Ivan IV of Russia (Ivan the Terrible) killed his son and heir to the throne in a fit of rage.
  • Peter the Great of Russia had his son tortured to death, being present at several of the torture sessions and allegedly participating in some of them.
  • Ronald Clark O'Bryan poisoned his son on Halloween 1974 with cyanide-laced candy for $20,000 of life insurance money. Executed in 1984.
  • John Emil List murdered his three children, mother and his wife on November 9, 1971. He was a fugitive for 18 years. He was apprehended on June 1, 1989 after an episode of America's Most Wanted aired. On May 1, 1990 he was sentenced to 5 life terms in prison.
  • Sharon Amos, a prominent member of the Peoples Temple church in Guyana (who was not present at Jonestown, but rather at Guyana headquarters in Georgetown) slit the throats of her two children and then herself after hearing the news of mass suicide from Jonestown over the ham radio.
  • Jozsef Barsi. On July 25, 1988 child actress Judith Barsi's father entered her bedroom and shot her in her head. Judith's mother heard the gunshot and came running down the hall where she was met by her father; he then shot his wife. He then drenched the bodies in gasoline and set the house on fire before finally shooting himself in the garage.
  • Josef and Magda Goebbels poisoned their six children before committing suicide.
  • Yeongjo, king of Korea (r. 1724-1776), ordered the death of his son, Crown Prince Sado, in 1767. The crown prince had murdered people within the royal palace and was most likely mentally ill. He obeyed his father’s order to climb into a rice chest, where he subsequently suffocated to death.
  • Selim I, sultan of the Ottoman Empire (1512-1520), had all possible competitors for the sultanate assassinated, including two of his brothers, his nephews, and all of his sons but one, Suleiman I.
  • Ptolemy XII of Egypt had his daughter Berenice IV and her husband beheaded in 55 BC. This was after she had dethroned him and poisoned her sister, Cleopatra VI.
  • Dena Schlosser murdered her young daughter by cutting off both of her arms with a kitchen knife because "God told [her] to".
  • Diane Downs shot her three children in Oregon and shot herself in the arm. She claimed a bushy haired man shot her and her kids. Her story was made into a book written by Ann Rule and movie titled Small Sacrifices starring Farrah Fawcett
  • Mark O. Barton killed several family members including his own children before going on a shooting spree and committing suicide
  • Professional wrestler Chris Benoit killed his seven year old son Daniel, along with his wife and himself, on June 23, 2007.
  • In 2003, Manuel Gehring of Concord, New Hampshire shot and killed his two children-- Sarah, 14, and Philip, 11-- before driving cross-country to California, where he was arrested, and burying them along the way. Manuel hung himself in prison awaiting trial in early 2004, and the bodies were recovered in Ohio in late 2005. His motives were unknown.
  • Robert Latimer killed his daughter Tracy on October 24, 1993, claiming it was to end her pain of being a quadraplegic with cerebral palsy.
  • In June 6, 1996, Darlie Routier murdered her two sons, Damon and Devon. Both boys were stabbed in their Rowlett, Texas home. Routier suffered self-inflicted wounds. Routier is currently serving life without parole.
  • Muhammad Parvez killed his daughter, Aqsa Parvez, on December 10, 2007, because of her refusal to wear a hijab outside her home.
  • Chizuko Okamoto was convicted of the October 2005 killing her daughter, and she was suspected of four others of her three children and her stepson.
  • Anna Maria Franzoni killed her son Samuele Lorenzi in their home in Cogne Italy

Filicides in myth and fiction

Related terms

And as for non-familial killing terms from the same root:
  • Regicide is the killing of a king or ruler.
  • Tyrannicide is the killing of a tyrant.
  • Homicide is the killing of a human.
  • Genocide is the killing of an ethnic, religious or national group.
  • Ecocide is the damaging of the ecosystem
  • Suicide is the killing of oneself.
  • Deicide is the killing of a god.
  • Uxoricide is the killing of one's wife.
Also consider filial cruelty (cruelty toward one's own child), child cruelty (cruelty toward an unrelated child), and child murder (the murder of a child in general).
filicide in Spanish: Filicidio
filicide in Japanese: 子殺し
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