In New York City, a woman tossed her 6-month-old daughter out of a high-rise apartment building, killing her, as her three other children looked on in horror. In Georgia, a father intentionally strapped his toddler into the car seat of a hot SUV, leaving him to die. And in the Canadian city of Winnipeg, a mom was charged with beating her 2-month-old daughter, who had Down syndrome, to death.
The details are almost too unbearable to contemplate, let alone understand. But sociologist Myrna Dawson, of the University of Guelph in Ontario, longed to make sense of these crimes and others like them, with the aim of preventing more in the future. And so in one of the most extensive reviews ever of filicide — the killing of a child under age 18 by a parent — Dawson examined Canadian data covering half a century of such cases, representing the longest period ever for a study of its kind.
“I wanted to understand more about how and why they occur and was particularly interested in differences between mothers and fathers who kill their children,” Dawson, a homicide expert and a longtime member of Canada’s first Domestic Violence Death Review Committee, tells Yahoo Parenting. “The goal was to identify common patterns and changing trends that might highlight priority areas for intervention and research.” Her findings have just been published in the journal Child Abuse and Neglect.
For her study, Dawson looked at cases between 1961 and 2011, during which time at least 1,612 children were killed by their parents in Canada; many more incidents have been reported since then. She examined everything from the parent’s gender, age, and marital status to possible motives, including histories of domestic violence, seeking patterns and trends in order to help figure out strategies for prevention. [Read Full Article]