Women who kill their children

R. A. Silverman, L. W. Kennedy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Like other types of female crime, female-perpetrated homicide is not a monlithic act that can be easily explained by one framework. There are many types of homicide (Nettler, 1982), and an attempt to find a single theoretical framework to explain the behaviors involved would probably not be fruitful. Differentiation of perpetrators on the basis of their relationship with their victims is a first step toward a better understanding of killings by women. Two thirds of the homicides perpetrated by women are accounted for by killings of their husbands and children. Much of the rest of the female-perpetrated homicide involves other family members and friends and acquaintances. Hence, in Canada over a 23-year period, we confirm earlier findings that, when females kill, the are most likely to kill a family member or other intimate. Nonetheless, females still contribute only about 10 to 12% to the overall homicide rate, and that small proportion has remained relatively constant over time. When comparing mothers who kill their children with other types of female-perpetrated homicide, differences appear between these perpetrators and others and between those committing infanticide and noninfanticide mothers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-127
Number of pages15
JournalViolence and Victims
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Health(social science)
  • Law


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