There’s nothing like a warm embrace, a calming touch, or some loving words from a parent to help soothe life’s struggles. From the moment we are born, we look up to our parents for guidance and safety; they are our protection from the evils of the world. Yet for some children, evil goes by the name of Mom and Dad. “Filicide” is the name given to the act of children being murdered at the hands of their own parents, and it’s a tragedy that’s greatly overlooked in the United States.
The case of Benjamin Sargent, a five-month-old baby who was kept in his car seat for eight days without food or water, has become one of the country’s most famous filicide cases, but sadly it is only because of just how horrific his death was. In the US, we thrive off of horror stories, but only if they are truly grotesque. News consumers don’t like to be sad, they prefer to be shocked. This keeps the 3,000 estimated annual US filicide cases out of establishment news and public knowledge.
Dr. Timothy Mariano and Heng Choon Chan, from Brown University, released a February 2014 study looking at 32 years of filicide cases in the US. The study proved to be rather shocking; their findings show that out of the 632,017 total arrests from 1975-2007, 94,146 (14.9%) of them turned out to be filicide related. By looking at the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports the researchers were able to conclude the most common filicide scenarios. The study shows that most of these cases are linked to the parents going through a separation, and though boys are more likely to be killed (58.3%) than girls, there is almost no gender bias when it comes to the parents who commit the crimes. Both Moms and Dads are equally likely to take a life.
With all of the newly acquired information about filicide, the US is on its way to finding the appropriate steps for preventative action, but it starts with awareness.
“Filicide in the U.S.: First Comprehensive Statistical Overview of Tragic Phenomenon,” Science Daily, February 25, 2014, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140225122423.htm.
Timothy Y. Mariano, Heng Choon (Oliver) Chan and Wade C. Myers, “Toward a More Holistic Understanding of Filicide: A Multidisciplinary Analysis of 32 Years of U.S. Arrest Data,” Forensic Science International, March 2014, http://www.fsijournal.org/article/S0379-0738(13)00542-2/abstract.
Kounteya Sinha, “Filicide: A 32 Year Analysis of Parents Murdering Their Kids” The Times of India, March 1, 2014, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/uk/Filicide-A-32-year-analysis-of-parents-murdering-their-kids/articleshow/31191450.cms.
Student Researcher: Alaena Merrill (Burlington College)
Faculty Evaluator: Rob Williams (Burlington College)