skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 200175 Find in a Library
Title: Understanding Infanticide in Context: Mothers Who Kill, 1870-1930 and Today
Journal: Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology  Volume:92  Issue:3/4  Dated:Spring/Summer 2002  Pages:707-738
Author(s): Michelle Oberman
Date Published: 2002
Page Count: 32
Type: Historical Overview; Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Following an overview of the patterned nature of contemporary infanticide cases in the United States, this study compared today's cases of infanticide with the patterns of those committed between 1870 and 1930 in Chicago.
Abstract: The study found that both in the Chicago cases of infanticide during 1870-1930 and in contemporary cases of infanticide, the public and societal institutions responded to the homicide of children by identifying and punishing a single, blameworthy individual. Little attention is given to the manner in which society's structural underpinnings contribute to the persistence of infanticide. There was apparently little awareness, for example, that an extraordinary number of cases in which women killed themselves and their children between 1870 and 1930 occurred among women with limited resources who were left alone to manage their families. One of the most significant differences between the patterns in the 1870-1930 Chicago infanticide cases and contemporary cases is the relatively small number of homicide-suicides that occur in contemporary society. This may be due to the existence of more support services for single and mentally ill mothers; daycare is available as are a variety of mental health services. The second major distinction between the historical and the contemporary infanticide cases involves the relative paucity among the historical cases of infanticides that involved parents abusing, neglecting, and maliciously killing their children; whereas, such cases constitute the majority of contemporary infanticide cases. Substance abuse seems to be a contributing factor in many contemporary infanticide cases; as many as 50 percent of all child abuse and neglect cases referred to juvenile court involve allegations of parental substance abuse. Still, there is considerable debate about whether the apparent increase in abuse-related infanticide in contemporary cases is due to differences in case reporting or to an actual overall increase in malicious violence toward children. Whatever the differences in patterns, infanticide can be attributed to a combination of environmental conditions impacting the family, accessible supportive services, the mental states of parents, and the expectations and resources for parenting. 128 notes
Main Term(s): Criminology
Index Term(s): Child abuse; Comparative analysis; Economic influences; Illinois; Infanticide; Offender profiles; Social conditions
Note: For other documents related to this study, see NCJ-200171-74 and NCJ-200176-82.
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.