Profiling Parricide in Nineteenth-Century America, 1852-1899
Although fables, myths, and works of fiction have been fruitfully mined as sources of data and inspiration for literary critics and psychotherapists regarding the dynamics of parricide and the purported motives of offenders, the publication of Paul Mones’s (1991) When A Child Kills and Kathleen Heide’s (1992) Why Kids Kill Parents recalibrated the parameters of parricide as a subtopic within the discipline of criminology; their works demonstrated that the study of parricide need not be dependent on the creative imagination of literary critics and filmmakers (e.g., Bunker, 1944; Carpetto, 1984; Kanzer, 1948; Freud, 1945). By examining the offense characteristics of parricides and interviewing offenders as sources of primary data, the two works empirically substantiated what previous works on parricide had only been able to claim tentatively and equivocally: first, that parricides represent a rather infrequent class of homicides; second, that parricides resemble general homicides in that they tend to be a male-dominated phenomenon, as victims and offenders; third, that parricides are not necessarily intrapsychic crimes since they ebb and flow with the undulations of general violence in society (Marleau & Webanck, 1997; Shon & Targonski, 2003).
Yet, despite such sociologically-informed findings about the characteristics of parricide, throughout much of the twentieth century, models for ← 1 | 2 → understanding parricide have been shaped by Freudian assumptions, with explanations dominated by references to its Oedipal roots—parricide interpreted “as a defense against hostility or incestuous desires” or an explosive culmination of “unresolved incestuous conflict” or excessive maltreatment (Bourget, Gagne,...
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