Parricide refers to the deliberate killing of one’s own father and/or mother. However, the term is sometimes used more generally to refer to the intentional killing of a near relative.[1] It is an umbrella term that can be used to refer to acts of matricide and patricide.

Matricide refers to the deliberate killing of one’s own mother.[2] Patricide refers to the deliberate killing of one’s own father.[3] The term parricide is also used to refer to many familicides (i.e. family annihilations wherein at least one parent is murdered along with other family members).

Societies consider parricide a serious crime and parricide offenders are subject to criminal prosecution under the homicide laws which are established in places (i.e. countries, states, etc.) in which parricides occur. According to the law, in most countries, an adult who is convicted of parricide faces a long-term prison sentence, a life sentence, or even capital punishment. Youthful parricide offenders who are younger than the age of majority (e.g. 18 year olds in the United States) may be prosecuted under less stringent laws which are designed to take their special needs and development into account but these laws are usually waived and as a result, most youthful parricide offenders are transferred into the Adult Judicial System.[4]

Parricide offenders are typically divided into two categories, 1) youthful parricide offenders (i.e. ages 8–24) and 2) adult parricide offenders (i.e. ages 25 and older) because the motivations and situations surrounding parricide events change as a child matures.[5]

Prevalence of parricideEdit

As per the Parricide Prevention Institute, approximately 2–3% of all U.S. murders were parricides each year since 2010.[6] The more than 300 parricides occurring in just the U.S. each year means there are 6 or more parricide events, on average, each week. This estimate does not include the murders of grandparents or stepparents by a child – only the murders of their natal or legally adoptive parents.[7]

Youthful parricide motivesEdit

Youthful parricide is motivated by a variety of factors. Current research conducted by the Parricide Prevention Institute indicates the top five motives causing a child (aged 8–24 years old) to commit parricide are:[6]

  • issues of control - 38% (e.g. put on restriction, phone taken away, etc.);
  • issues of money - 10% (access to life insurance, wants money for a party, etc.);
  • stop abuse of self or family - 8%;
  • fit of anger - 8%;
  • wants a different life - 7% (e.g. wants to live with non-custodial parent, etc.).

Youthful parricide and child abuseEdit

It is a common misconception that youthful parricide offenders murdered their parent/s to escape egregious child abuse. This is actually not the case. In fact, this notion was challenged beginning in 1999 when Hillbrand et al. suggested that child abuse is simply only one variable among myriad variables that lead to adolescent parricide, rather than the primary reason for youthful parricide occurrences.[8] In a study published by Weisman et al. (2002), they noted there was a remarkable absence of child abuse and emphatically stated that their research did not statistically validate the generalization that prior child abuse had prompted the majority of these crimes.[9] In 2006 Marleau et al. noted that in their study only 25% of all study participants had been subjected to any kind of family violence; refuting the generalization that child abuse is the primary motivator for parricide by youthful offenders. They called for more research on the alleged connection between child abuse and parricidal acts. [10] Bourget et al. (2007) noted many shortcomings in the extant literature and suggested alternative causes of parricide rather than accepting a general notion that child abuse was the primary cause of parricide by youthful offenders.[11] In their commentary on methodological problems plaguing parricide research, Hillbrand and Cipriano (2007) noted the challenges posed by studies on parricide; acknowledging that most studies utilized very small sample sizes that should not have been generalized. This call for more research was answered by a study in 2019 when the study by Thompson and Thompson statistically invalidated the general theory that most adolescent parricides were the result of abuse of the child at the hands of the parents who had been murdered. Their research (N = 754) revealed that only 15% of youthful parricide offenders alleged abuse at the hands of the parent/s they had killed. A full 66% were not abused, did not allege abuse and were not perpetrators of abuse.[6] Of the remaining population, 13% of the offenders had alleged abuse that was not substantiated (some of these children had lied about abuse and it could not be proven that abuse had occurred in other cases). Additionally, 6% of the youthful parricide offenders had been found to have actually abused their parent/s prior to the murder/s.[12] Child abuse, while a factor present in some youthful parricide occurrences, is not the primary motivator for these murders. As noted above, issues of control are the most typical motive behind the murder.

Notable modern-day casesEdit

Notable historical casesEdit

Legal definition in Roman timesEdit

In the sixth century AD collection of earlier juristical sayings, the Digest, a precise enumeration of the victims' possible relations to the parricide is given by the 3rd century AD lawyer Modestinus:

By the lex Pompeia on parricides it is laid down that if anyone kills his father, his mother, his grandfather, his grandmother, his brother, his sister, first cousin on his father's side, first cousin on his mother's side, paternal or maternal uncle, paternal (or maternal) aunt, first cousin (male or female) by mother's sister, wife, husband, father-in-law, son-in-law, mother-in-law, (daughter-in-law), stepfather, stepson, stepdaughter, patron, or patroness, or with malicious intent brings this about, shall be liable to the same penalty as that of the lex Cornelia on murderers. And a mother who kills her son or daughter suffers the penalty of the same statute, as does a grandfather who kills a grandson; and in addition, a person who buys poison to give to his father, even though he is unable to administer it.[14]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Parricide Law and Legal Definition | USLegal, Inc". Retrieved 2022-07-05.
  2. ^ "matricide".
  3. ^ "Definition of PATRICIDE".
  4. ^ "Juvenile Delinquents and Federal Criminal Law: The Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act and Related Matters".
  5. ^ Thompson, S. A.; Thompson, B. (2019). "Youthful parricide: child abuse is not the primary motivator (invited paper)". Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice. 5 (4): 253–263. doi:10.1108/JCRPP-12-2018-0048. S2CID 187896024.
  6. ^ a b c "The Youthful Parricide Offender". Parricide Prevention. Retrieved 2022-07-05.
  7. ^ Thompson, S. A.; Thompson, B. (2019). "Youthful parricide: child abuse is not the primary motivator (invited paper)". Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice. 5 (4): 253–263. doi:10.1108/JCRPP-12-2018-0048. S2CID 187896024.
  8. ^ Hillbrand, M.; Alexandre, J. W.; Spitz, R. R. (1999). "Parricides: characteristics of offenders and victims, legal factors, and treatment issues". Aggression and Violent Behavior. 4 (2). doi:10.1016/S1359-1789(97)00056-6.
  9. ^ Weisman, A.; Ehrenclou, M.; Sharma, K. K. (2006). "Double parricide: forensic analysis and psycho-legal implications". Journal of Forensic Sciences. 42 (2): 15249J. doi:10.1520/JFS15249J.
  10. ^ Marleau, J. D.; Auclair, N.; Millaud, F. (2006). "Comparison of factors associated with parricide in adults and adolescents". Journal of Family Violence. 21 (5): 321–325. doi:10.1007/s10896-006-9029-z. S2CID 22850061.
  11. ^ Bourget, D.; Gagné, P.; LaBelle, M. E. (September 2007). "Parricide: a comparative study of matricide versus patricide". Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. 35 (3): 306–312. PMID 17872550.
  12. ^ Thompson, S. A.; Thompson, B. (2019). "Youthful parricide: child abuse is not the primary motivator (invited paper)". Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice. 5 (4): 253–263. doi:10.1108/JCRPP-12-2018-0048. S2CID 187896024.
  13. ^
  14. ^ Watson, Alan, ed. (1998). The Digest of Justinian, Volume 4, Book 48. Translated by Robinson, Olivia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 335. ISBN 978-0-8122-2036-0.

External linksEdit