A Meta-Synthesis of Filicide Classification Systems: Psychosocial and Psychodynamic Issues in Women Who Kill Their Children

Marie E. Mugavin


J Foren Nurs. 2005;1(2):65-72. 

In This Article

Classification of Filicide by Source of Impulse to Kill

Scott (1973) believed a clinical assessment should avoid criterion of motive and use instead the source of the impulse to kill. The impulse may be sparked by the child's behavior or may be transferred to the child from another cause, possibly a displacement of anger. For example, an impulsive killing cannot always be categorized as psychotic or altruistic even when several children are involved and there is a subsequent serious suicide attempt. Additionally, underlying frustrations must be taken into consideration when evaluating a homicidal act. With this in mind Scott (1973) suggests the following classification comprised of five categories:

  1. Eliminating an unwanted child by assault or neglect.

  2. Mercy killing in which there is a real degree of suffering in the victim and an absence of secondary gain for the parents.

  3. Aggression attributable to gross mental pathology including organic, toxic, epileptic psychosis, paranoid psychosis, manic-depressive psychosis, and retardation.

  4. Murder as a result of a stimulus arising outside the victim including displacement of anger with or without revenge; prevention of loss of a love object or status.

  5. Victim constitutes the stimulus which leads to exasperation, loss of temper, and battering by the parent.


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