Do Characteristics of Parental Child Homicide in Sweden Fit Evolutionary Predictions?


Johanna Nordlund, Division of Ethology, Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden.


Evolutionary models have been used to explain parental child homicide. One idea is that children with low fitness value to their parents will be less loved and cared for and therefore more at risk in conflict situations. It is then important to investigate if conflicts with the children are the major pattern in cases of parental child homicide. The aim of this study is to survey the background circumstances of parental child homicide in Sweden and relate them to the evolutionary model suggested. We more specifically investigate if the homicides occur in conflict situations with the child, the frequency of several victims (including the partner or former partner) and if there are differences in characteristics of homicides between stepparents and genetic parents. Our results show that parental child homicide is a heterogeneous phenomenon, where relatively few cases were the result of a conflict with the child-victims. Instead severe conflicts between parents were the most common circumstance in which children were killed. Many children were victims of an extended suicide, which often included several members of the family. Step-parents were more likely to kill children aggressively in conflicts with them than genetic parents. The complexity of the phenomenon suggests that an evolutionary model based upon a mechanism related to conflicts with the child-victim has limited explanatory value on parental child homicide in general.