Experts Explore Causes Of “Familicide”

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Why do people kill family members? The Associated Press reports that sociologists say little is known about familicide, but upstanding people are just as likely to do it as someone with a clouded past. One expert says current thinking puts family killers into one of two camps: failures who kill their nearest and dearest to save them from perceived shame, or those who kill them because they can’t control them.

Criminologist Keith Durkin of Northern Ohio University says those who interview people involved in familicide face a major problem “because their data is only what [the criminal] tells you.”

Durkin calls one type of family killer the “reversal-of-fortunes person,” such as a model huband whose business goes bad, and “to save his family from what he perceives as shame, he kills them.” The other, Durkin says, is “a horrific offshoot of domestic violence. It’s a controlling mentality, the ultimate expression of control. If he can’t control his wife and family, he will kill them.”

Specialists are exploring two other theories also relatively new to American academics: the “amok” theory, as in “He got drunk and he ran amok.”

The other theory, says sociologist Clifford Bryant of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, is “fantasy engulfment,” in which people live fantasies day after day. “Sometimes fantasies take over and they can’t tell where fantasy stops and reality begins,” he said.


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