Filicide and Child Maltreatment: Prospects for Ultimate Explanation

Grant T. Harris and Marnie E. Rice

in The Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Perspectives on Violence, Homicide, and War

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199738403
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Filicide and Child Maltreatment: Prospects for Ultimate Explanation

Show Summary Details


The clinical literature on human filicide and child maltreatment lacks a comprehensive explanation both for perpetration and its effects. In this chapter, we outline how evolutionary, selectionist thinking can help make sense of the data on the perpetrators of child maltreatment and filicide, and potentially also help make sense of the effects of maltreatment on its victims. At the proximate level, filicide and child maltreatment seem pathological or inexplicable by natural causes. At the ultimate level, however, we explore how things that seem deviant, disturbed, and even self-destructive can be understood as adaptive or as side effects of adaptations. In addition to leading to scientific hypotheses that can further our theoretical understanding, an evolutionary explanation might help efforts to assess the risk of these troubling behaviors, prevent them, and remedy the effects.

Keywords: filicide; infanticide; child homicide; child maltreatment; child abuse; stepparents; parental investment; parental solicitude

Article.  11922 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.