College of Psychology Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PhD)

Department

Center for Psychological Studies

First Advisor

Lenore Walker

Second Advisor

David Shapiro

Third Advisor

Craig Marker

Keywords

Child Abuse, Child Homicide, Domestic Violence, Family Violence, Perpetrators, Violence

Abstract

The scientific study of child abuse and infanticide is a relatively young practice in the field of medicine, psychiatry and psychology, and although the role of parents in child homicide has been studied, minimal research has focused on the role of the male paramour, or the child's mother's boyfriend, as the perpetrator of child homicides. This study aimed to examine the differences between male paramours and biological fathers who kill children and hypothesized that biological fathers or step-fathers are significantly more likely than the child's mother's male paramour to kill their children due to relationship factors between the perpetrator and the child's mother, specifically and for the purpose of this study in the context of domestic violence. Child homicides committed by male paramours, in comparison, are more likely to have resulted from factors that are individually or child-centered. Decedent children ages 0-17 that were killed at the hands of their biological father, male-stepfather, or biological mother's male paramours between the years 1999 through 2005 in Miami-Dade County were be studied. The age of the perpetrators and child victims killed by the two groups were compared using an independent samples t-test, with a significance level set at .05. The two groups of male perpetrators were compared on prior domestic violence histories, prior criminal histories, evidence of prior trauma to the child, and perpetration of multiple homicide and post-incident suicide using a chi-square test, with a significance level set of .05. Significant differences were found between the two groups. Specifically, paramours are significantly more likely to be younger than biological fathers and children killed by paramours are more likely to evidence prior trauma. Further, biological fathers are significantly more likely to have a history of domestic violence, as a perpetrator, engage in multiple killings, and commit suicide after perpetrating the child death. The study demonstrates the need for prevention resources to target the two groups differently, to be most effective in prevention. The study also demonstrates the need for more extensive research comparing differences child homicide versus child abuse and in those that perpetrate the two. Lastly, it should inform public policy and the law and how these are applied to cases of domestic violence and child welfare.

Included in

Psychology Commons

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