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Women Who Kill (From Handbook of Psychological Approaches With Violent Offenders: Contemporary Strategies and Issues, P 189-204, 1999, Vincent B. Van Hasselt and Michel Hersen, eds. -- See NCJ-179662)

NCJ Number
Janet I. Warren; Jeff Kovnick
Date Published
16 pages
This analysis of women murderers examines three categories of murder in detail: the killing of a child by the mother, the killing of a spouse or partner, and the less common forms of instrumental violence perpetrated by women against acquaintances or strangers.
The discussion of maternal filicide considers neonaticide (killing of a newborn), the mentally ill mother who kills a child, child abuse and neglect psychopathy, and mercy killing. Spousal killings by women typically stem from abusive male partners. Unlike the interpersonally motivated murder by mothers and wives, the female psychopath murders for instrumental purposes and is primarily motivated by personal gain. The victims are more likely to be strangers or at least individuals with less personal significance to her, and the purpose is usually clearly defined (e.g., money, revenge, drugs). Taken as a whole, this research suggests that the bonds of intimacy continue to hold the seeds of violence for the majority of female killers. They generally do not offend outside the family; when they do, the offending behavior is often preceded by drug addiction and a chaotic, crime-invested lifestyle. The most common forms of murder, the killing of a child or partner, are, in turn, generally associated with such traumas as severe mental illness, chronic abuse, deformity, and extreme poverty. These patterns, which differ significantly from those manifested by males, most likely reflect a complex blend of hormonal, physiological, social, and cultural influences that distinguish the lethal violence of women from that of men. 94 references


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