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Open Access Research article

Filicide in Austria and Finland - A register-based study on all filicide cases in Austria and Finland 1995-2005

Hanna Putkonen1*, Sabine Amon23, Maria P Almiron4, Jenny Yourstone Cederwall5, Markku Eronen1, Claudia Klier2, Ellen Kjelsberg6 and Ghitta Weizmann-Henelius1

Author Affiliations

1 Vanha Vaasa hospital, PO Box 13, 65381 Vaasa, Finland

2 Medical University of Vienna, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Währinger Gürtel 18-20, A-1090 Vienna, Austria

3 University of Vienna, Faculty of psychology, Liebiggasse 5, A-1010 Wien, Austria

4 BFPO 5536, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, West End Road, Ruislip HA4 6EP, UK

5 Centre for Violence Prevention, Karolinska Institute, Box 23000, 104 35 Stockholm, Sweden

6 Oslo University Hospital, Ullevaal Department of Psychiatry, Gaustad Building No 7, N-0403 Oslo, Norway

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BMC Psychiatry 2009, 9:74  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-9-74

Published: 21 November 2009

Abstract

Background

Filicide is the tragic crime of murdering one's own child. Previous research has found that the offending parents are commonly depressed and that suicide is often associated as an actual act or an intention. Yet, filicide is an underreported crime and previous studies have been strained with methodological problems. No comprehensive international studies on filicide have been presented in the literature until now.

Methods

This was a descriptive, comprehensive, register-based study of all filicides in Austria and Finland during 1995-2005. Filicide-suicide cases were also included.

Results

Most of the perpetrators were the biological mothers; in Austria 72%, in Finland 52%. Suicide followed filicide either as an attempt or a fulfilled act in 32% and 54% of the cases in Austria and Finland, respectively. Psychotic mood disorders were diagnosed for 10% of the living perpetrators in Austria, and 12% in Finland. Non-psychotic depression was diagnosed in 9% of surviving perpetrators in Austria, 35% in Finland.

Conclusion

The data from the two countries demonstrated that filicide is such a multifaceted and rare phenomenon that national data from individual countries seldom offer sufficient scope for its thorough study. Further analyses are needed to produce a complete picture of filicide.