An Evolutionary Psychological Analysis of Filicide in Norway
Appears in the following Collection
- Psykologisk institutt 
AbstractThis thesis presents the first study of the characteristics traits of caretaker perpetrated child homicide (filicide) in current day Norway, covering the years 1990–2009. Evolutionary psychological (EP) perspectives on filicide are currently the only theoretical approach that in a comprehensive manner details the underpinning psychological mechanisms of distinct filicide categories and predict what traits will be characteristic of perpetrators, victims and contexts from the respective mechanisms. It was therefore of interest, both from a theoretical and a preventive perspective, to test EP predictions concerning the characteristic traits of filicide in the present study. A complete national sample was compiled of incidents identified through the homicide index held by the National Crime Investigation Service (NCIS) and indictment records of the National Police Computer and Material Services (NPCMS). Court verdicts were used as the data source in incidents where the perpetrator had been convicted. Data was collected from the NCIS’ index for incidents of filicide-suicide. EP perspectives hold that parental psychology has evolved the ability for discriminant investment in children, which may result in filicide perpetration. Psychological mechanisms underpinning lethal discriminative parental investment are however seldom triggered in a modern, well-developed welfare state, such as current day Norway (paper I). As expected from EP perspectives, the majority of filicide incidents (79.5%) were instead associated with perpetrator psychopathology (Paper II). Consistent with EP predictions, these filicides had older perpetrators and victims and had more often multiple victims than filicides that were not associated with perpetrator psychopathology. Also in accordance with EP predictions, there were no stepparents among perpetrators suffering psychopathology. The present study thus adds current day Norway to the growing list of societies in which EP predictions concerning the characteristic traits of filicide have been empirically confirmed, which lends support to EP perspectives on the underpinning psychological mechanisms of filicide. Current EP perspectives, however, have a shortcoming in that they do not explicitly account for the apparent variability individuals have in their risk for filicide perpetration. Drawing on evolutionary developmental psychological (EDP) perspectives, I explored possible developmental origins to such variability, and found that according to the empirical literature the majority of filicide perpetrators (63% to 84%) have traumatic childhood experiences of physical, sexual and emotional abuse and abandonment (Paper III).
List of papers
|Paper I Ottesen, V. (2012) A current absence of neonaticide in Norway. Scandinavian Journal of Forensic Science, 18(2), 155 – 163. The paper is available in DUO: http://urn.nb.no/URN:NBN:no-54076|
|Paper II Ottesen, V. & Weekes-Shackelford, V. Do evolutionary psychology predictions concerning the risk for filicide apply in Norway? To be published. The paper is not available in DUO awaiting publishing.|
|Paper III Ottesen, V. An evolutionary developmental psychology perspective on the risk for filicide perpetration. To be published. The paper is not available in DUO awaiting publishing.|