Familicidal Hearts: The Emotional Styles of 211 Killers

Neil Websdale

Research output: Book/ReportBook

83 Scopus citations


Familicide involves the killing of a current or former spouse or partner and one or more of their children, followed, in many cases, by the suicide of the perpetrator. These killings are limited to the modern era and seem to be on the rise in late modern times, deeply disturbing the communities in which they occur. Familicidal Hearts explores the emotional styles of 196 male and 15 female perpetrators of this shocking offence, situating their emotional styles on a continuum with livid coercive killers at one end and civil reputable murderers at the other. The analysis identifies the pivotal roles of socially situated emotions such as shame, rage, fear, anxiety, and depression in the lives of perpetrators and in particular the way perpetrators mismanage these emotions, fail to acknowledge or recognize them, and mask them. The author identifies modern era figurations of feeling and familial atmospheres of feeling as being conducive to the rise of familicide. In particular, most perpetrators see themselves as failing to live up to the demands of modern era gender expectations, as fathers, lovers, and, much more rarely, as wives or mothers. In spite of the plethora of case details used, the author contends that at some level, familicides are inexplicable and reflect the haunting effects of modern emotional formations that defy scientific analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages334
ISBN (Electronic)9780199777464
ISBN (Print)9780195315417
StatePublished - May 1 2010


  • Civil reputable
  • Domestic violence
  • Emotional formations
  • Emotional styles
  • Familicide
  • Haunting
  • Livid coercive
  • Murder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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