Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Parricide: Characteristics of sons and daughters who kill their parents

Sara G. West, MD,
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, OH

Mendel Feldsher, MD, Consulting Forensic Psychiatrist, Patton State Hospital, Patton, CA

Parricide—killing one’s parents—once was referred to as “the schizophrenic crime,” but is now recognized as being more complex. In the United States, parricides accounted for 2% of all homicides from 1976 to 1998, which is consistent with studies from France and the United Kingdom. Parricide’s scandalous nature has long attracted the public’s fascination.

This article primarily focuses on the interplay of the diagnostic and demographic factors seen in adults who kill their biological parents but briefly notes differences seen in juvenile perpetrators and those who kill their stepparents. Knowledge of these characteristics can help clinicians identify and more safely manage patients who may be at risk of harming their parents.

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