Filicide is the deliberate act of a parent killing their own child. The word filicide is derived from the Latin words filius and filia (son and daughter) and the suffix -cide, meaning to kill, murder, or cause death. The word can refer both to the crime and to the perpetrator of the crime.
A 1999 U.S. Department of Justice study concluded that mothers were responsible for a higher share of children killed during infancy between 1976 and 1997 in the United States, while fathers were more likely to have been responsible for the murders of children aged eight or older. Parents were responsible for 61% of child murders under the age of five. Sometimes, there is a combination of murder and suicide in filicide cases. On average, according to FBI statistics, 450 children are murdered by their parents each year in the United States.
An in-depth longitudinal study of 297 cases convicted of filicide and 45 of filicide-suicide in the United Kingdom between 1997 and 2006 showed that 37% of the perpetrators had a recorded mental illness at the time. The most common diagnoses were mood disorders and personality disorders rather than psychosis, but the latter accounted for 15% of cases. However - similar to findings in a large Danish study - the majority had not had contact with mental health services prior to the murders, and few had received treatment. Female perpetrators were more likely to have given birth as teenagers. Fathers were more likely to have been convicted of violent offences and have a history of substance misuse, and were more likely to kill multiple victims. Infants were more likely to be victims than older children, and a link to post-partum depression was suggested.
Dr. Phillip Resnick published research on filicide in 1969 and stated that there were five main motives for filicide, including "altruistic," "fatal maltreatment," "unwanted child," and "spousal revenge." "Altruistic" killings occur because the parent believes that the world is too cruel for the child, or because the child is enduring suffering (whether this is actually occurring or not). In fatal maltreatment killings, the goal is not always to kill the child, but death may occur anyway, and Munchausen syndrome by proxy is in that category. Spousal revenge killings are killings of children done to indirectly harm a domestic partner; they do not frequently occur. Glen Carruthers, author of "Making sense of spousal revenge filicide," argued that those who engage in spousal revenge killings see their own children as objects.
In 2013, in the United States, homicide was in the top five causes of deaths of children, and in the top three causes of death in children between 1 and 4 years old. A direct correlation has been identified between child abuse rates and child homicide rates. Research suggests that children who are murdered by their parents were physically abused victims prior to death.