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Journal Article


Heide KM. J. Interpers. Violence 1993; 8(4): 531-544.


(Copyright © 1993, SAGE Publishing)






VioLit summary:

The goal of this article by Heide was to analyze homicides committed by children against parents (parricide). FBI data were used to identify distinguishing correlates of victims, offenders, and incidents of parricide.

A quasi-experimental design was employed for this study. Secondary analysis of FBI Supplementary Homicide Reports from 1977-1986 was conducted. Both adult and children parricide offenders were included in the analysis. Biological parents were analyzed separately from stepparents. Single offender, single victim incidents were the concentration of the analysis. The dataset included 1368 fathers (92% of all fathers killed by children), 887 mothers (86% of all), 562 stepfathers (89%), and 54 stepmothers (73%). Circumstances of the offense, age, race, ethnicity, and gender of the offenders and victims were included in the analysis. Descriptive statistics, tau-c, and chi square were used to analyze the data.

In the years 1977-1986, between 98% and 99.6% of all homicides involving parents and stepparents were classified as murder rather than manslaughter. Arguments constituted the circumstances for the majority of parental homicides. Fathers who were killed were significantly (p<.01) more likely to be involved in arguments than mothers who were killed. The mean and median age of fathers killed by children were 54 and 52, respectively. 65% of fathers were white, and 36% were black. The children who killed fathers ranged from age 9 to 67, were 87% male, and had mean and median ages of 24 and 22 respectively. The mean and median ages for mothers killed by children were 58 and 57, respectively. Mothers were significantly more likely to be white than fathers (p<.01) with 74% being white. Children who killed mothers ranged in age from 9 to 68 with mean and median ages of 30 and 28, respectively. 86% of those who killed mothers were male, and these offenders were significantly more likely to be white (p<.01).
Stepparent homicide data were analyzed. Mean and median ages of stepfathers killed during this period were 46 and 45, respectively, with 59% being white and 39% being black. Age ranges for stepfather homicide offenders was 11-72 with mean and median ages of 23 and 20. The age range of stepmothers who were victims was 23-84 with a mean and median of 50 and 49. Stepmothers were significantly more likely to be white than stepfathers; 72% of those slain were white. Offenders who killed stepmothers ranged from 12 to 60 years with mean and median ages of 26 and 22. 85% of the offenders who killed stepmothers were male. Fathers were significantly more likely than mothers to be killed by offenders under 30 (p<.01) with 36% being under 19. Percentages of fathers killed by children declined greatly as offender age categories increased. Black youths under 18 were found to be significantly less likely (p<.001) to kill their fathers than were white youths under 18. Mothers, on the other hand, were significantly more likely to be killed by offenders over 30 years old (p<.01). Only 54% of mothers were killed by offenders under 30. 22% of the offenders were over 40. Stepfathers were killed by youths under 19 in 47% of the cases, and by children less than 30 in 82% of the cases. Blacks under the age of 18 were significantly less likely to kill their stepfathers than their white counterparts (p<.001). Cases of homicide involving stepmothers killed included 41% which were committed by those under 19. 74% of the stepmothers were killed by offenders under the age of 30. The author stated that there was no evidence for any increase in youth involvement in the killing of mothers, fathers, and stepmothers during the years 1977 to 1986. It was found that there was a decrease in the percentage involvement of juveniles in patricide (father-killing) cases since the 80's. Involvement of those over 18 were found to significantly increase over the ten-year period (p<.005). There was an increasing involvement of youth found in the killing of stepfathers, but this finding was statistically insignificant.

The author stated that the FBI could make use of these findings to better understand the phenomena of parent-killing and make more serious efforts at prevention. The author argued for essential changes in coding of multiple victim and/or multiple offender homicides to facilitate further analyses. Findings of higher proportions of juveniles involved in stepparent killings were used to argue for more investigation into problems faced by juveniles in stepfamilies.

The data used for this study, Supplementary Homicide Reports, exist as the best comprehensive data source for this kind of study. The inability to include multiple victim/offender cases, a weakness mentioned by the author, could provide some weakness to the conclusions, though it is likely that the numbers that were excluded would have insignificant effects on the overall picture. Caution should be taken when evaluating findings on stepmothers as the number of cases (54) is representative of only 73% of the total number of stepmother homicides. This study provides a useful descriptive analysis of parricide. Given the dearth in the literature on parricide, particularly that committed by children over 18, this study provides essential information. However, these findings can only be used in a limited way as there was no depth analysis of the circumstances which led to the killings or other background factors which may have caused the actual lethal act. Further investigation is desperately needed to extend our understanding of parricide from descriptive models to testing factors which potentially cause the killing of parents.

(CSPV Abstract - Copyright © 1992-2007 by the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, Institute of Behavioral Science, Regents of the University of Colorado)

Parent Victim
Parent Abuse Offender
Parent Abuse Victim
Parent Homicide
Juvenile Offender
Juvenile Violence
Domestic Homicide
Homicide Offender
Homicide Victim
Domestic Violence Victim
Domestic Violence Offender
Victim Characteristics
Offender Characteristics
Adult Offender
Adult Victim
Adult Violence
Elder Adult Victim
Father Victim
Mother Victim


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