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Respect, Defense, and Self-Identity

Profiling Parricide in Nineteenth-Century America, 1852-1899


Phillip Chong Ho Shon

Ever since Oedipus unwittingly killed his father and married his mother in Sophocles’ play, parricide – the killing of a parent or another close relative – has been a dominant motif in works of literature, film, psychoanalytic theory, and criminology. Yet, parricide, for much of the twentieth and twenty-first century, has been framed as an adolescent phenomenon, with child abuse proffered as the overriding cause related to the killing of parents. Respect, Defense, and Self-Identity provides a new way of understanding parricides by analyzing the behavior of offenders and victims at the scene of the crime in relation to the sources of conflict. This book examines the conflict between parents and their offspring across the life course and argues that parricides are shaped by factors such as respect, defense, and self-identity. Respect, Defense, and Self-Identity is recommended for classroom use in courses such as criminology, homicide, family violence, and social work.
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Chapter 1. Sources of Conflict


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Although the potential conflict between parents and their offspring is heavily mediated by economic factors, well-publicized cases of parental killings in the latter part of the twentieth century (e.g., Menendez brothers, Richard Jahnke) have framed the discourse and understanding of parricide as an adolescent phenomenon that is primarily related to abuse (e.g., Mones, 1991). In addition to the conflicting economic interests between parents and their offspring, however, previous studies of parricide have been shown to be relevant for a theory of self, society, and law (Freud, 1914; Schoenfeld, 1992). Yet, despite such potential for theoretical richness and divergence in parricide scholarship the actual sources of conflict between parents and their offspring have remained underexplored as a topic in its own right. Examining the actual sources of conflict between parents and their offspring thus has the potential to provide a much more nuanced understanding of parricide and both parties involved in the crime. This chapter attempts to remedy that gap in the literature.

A context-based approach to parricide has significant implications for parricide as it relates to the practice of forensic psychology. First, the extant parricide offender typology presents an incomplete view of parricide offenders as adult offenders have not been systematically treated as warrantable objects ← 17 | 18 → of analysis (e.g., Heide, 1992). Second, while Heide’s (1992) typology proffers a conceptual framework for understanding the motives of offenders, it neglects to examine the sociological factors that may be important to understanding...

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