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NCJ Number: 212133 Find in a Library
Title: Unintended Consequences for the Youngest Victims: The Role of Law in Encouraging Neonaticide From the Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries
Journal: Criminal Justice Studies: A Critical Journal of Crime, Law and Society  Volume:18  Issue:3  Dated:September 2005  Pages:237-254
Author(s): Jon'a F. Meyer
Date Published: September 2005
Page Count: 18
Type: Historical Overview
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article explores how the legal realities during the 17th through 19th centuries had the unintended consequence of encouraging neonaticide.
Abstract: An important aspect of victimology is the study of how laws may unintentionally increase victimization rather than reduce it. This article focuses on exploring the legal realities and social conditions from the 17th to the 19th centuries that served to encourage women, particularly unmarried women, to conceal their pregnancies and kill their newborns. The author analyzes laws that authorized the negative treatment of illegitimate children and their mothers within a society characterized by high marital instability, relatively unrestrained sexuality, and high numbers of illegitimate children. The harsh punishment of female fornicators during this time period, consisting of such punishments as whipping and imprisonment, is also analyzed as a subtle encouragement for neonaticide, followed by an examination of the harsh realities endured by indentured servants. Once the most common form of homicide in England, changes in laws and social arrangements have reduced the incidence of neonaticide greatly by eliminating many of the motivating factors for concealing a pregnancy and killing a newborn. Future research should continue to explore the unintended consequences of law. Notes, case, statutes, references
Main Term(s): Legal doctrines; Victimization
Index Term(s): Female murderers; Infanticide; Pregnant women
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