Printer Friendly

Maternal filicide among women admitted to forensic psychiatric institutions in Malaysia: case series.


'Filicide' is a general term used when a parent (biological, step-, or adoptive parent) kills his / her own child. (1-3) When the victim is aged less than a day, the term 'neonaticide' is used. 'Infanticide' is commonly used when the victim is aged less than a year. (4) When the victims of killing are the child/ren and the spouse of the offender, the act is called 'familicide'. (5) Filicide includes a spectrum of behaviour that ranges from non-intentional to an intentional act of killing, from death related to maltreatment (such as abandonment, neglect, or exposure) to fatal assault (such as suffocation, strangulation, and stabbing) and from covert to overt child homicide. (6) Many scholars have used 'maternal filicide' or 'paternal filicide' when the perpetrator is the mother or the father of the victim, respectively. (3,7)

Interest in filicide among women with psychiatric disorders has increased considerably in recent years and is reflected by the substantial literature that has been published on this subject. While emergent research has refined our understanding of maternal filicide, a major limitation of current global knowledge of literature is the scarcity of empirical data as well as scholarly published studies from developing and poorly resourced countries. Thus, it hinders a broader understanding of this predicament.

The surge in research in filicide has begun since the review of filicide by Resnick in 1969. (2) Derived from the world literature of 13 languages from 1751 to 1967, a total of 155 filicide cases were reviewed. In this landmark study, Resnick (2) proposed a classification of filicide into 5 groups according to motive: (i) 'altruistic'--filicide occurred together with suicide of the parent or it was believed that by committing filicide, the parent could relieve his / her child's suffering; (ii) 'acutely psychotic'--the parent killed his / her child under the influence of psychosis (such as hallucination or delusion) due to mental illness or organic psychosis; (iii) 'unwanted child'--the child was killed because s/he was not wanted or desired (such as illegitimate child, severe poverty); (iv) 'accidental' or fatal child maltreatment--the death of a child following battering or child abuse; and (v) 'spouse revenge'--the parent killed the child in the attempt to make his / her partner suffer. Later, in 1970, Resnick (4) introduced 'neonaticide' to indicate killing of a newborn aged less than 1 day. Since the review by Resnick, various other proposed classifications with slight adjustments and modifications have been suggested. (8-12)

There is no consensus on the prevalence of women with mental illness who commit filicide. The major limitation to the study of maternal filicide is inadequate numbers and inconsistent methodologies. The rates of major mental illness such as psychosis or depression in people who commit filicide are likewise inconsistent. In reported studies, the proportion with psychosis has ranged from 27% to 73%, (4,13-16) whereas the proportion with depression has been reported to be as low as 6% or as high as 82%. (2,17,18) Such variation may be due to differences in study location and the nature of the samples. Studies that have been carried out in a psychiatric setting (13,19) tend to report a higher percentage of mental illness. (14,15) Nonetheless the presence of minor mental illness in filicidal offenders was relatively low: only about 2% to 4% of studied offenders had an anxiety disorder (20,21) and a small proportion, in particular those who committed neonaticide, manifested dissociative phenomenon or symptoms of post-traumatic stress. (22,23)

Most researchers agree that mental illness is an important mediating factor in filicide, especially in those who kill older infants or children. Opinion, however, is divided on the presence of profound mental illness in women who commit neonaticide. Some believe that such women have no frank mental disorders, (24-27) while others report a significant proportion with remarkable symptoms of mental illness. (13,20) The women have often been described as single, young, immature, with low self-esteem and dependent. They have often manifested with denial of pregnancy, received no perinatal care, delivered the baby alone, and killed the baby as soon as possible following delivery. (20,24,28) For filicide of infants and older children, substantial studies have implicated the presence of mental illness either before, during, or after the act. The characteristics of women who have severe mental illness and who commit filicide have been described by several studies. They were often older and had killed an older child, were married and more intelligent, but unemployed, divorced or separated and came from low socioeconomic status compared with those without mental illness. Women who committed filicide and had mental illness were more likely to have received outpatient psychiatric treatment, had a history of attempted suicide, and had previous substance abuse. They often confessed to the act and were acquitted on the grounds of insanity. (19,21,29,30)

Objective of Study

Current knowledge and understanding of maternal filicide in women with mental illness published in scholarly journals are devoid of information from developing countries such as Malaysia. There are knowledge gaps in various socioeconomic backgrounds, motives for killing, stress, and various other life events experienced by the women who have mental illness and have attempted or committed filicide from this side of the world. The main objective of this study was therefore to gain more insight into the nature of this phenomenon with reference to Malaysia. We illustrate descriptively the background socio-demographics of women who attempted or committed the act of filicide and their victims, the various life events experienced by these women, and a summary of the history of the alleged offence.


Data Source

Data were derived from the clinical records of women who were admitted to 2 main forensic psychiatric institutions in Malaysia: Hospital Bahagia Ulu Kinta, Perak and Hospital Permai, Johore from 2000 until 2012. Both hospitals provide medicolegal or forensic admissions via referrals through the courts, prisons, and other relevant detention centres, mostly from peninsular Malaysia. The records contained a daily clinical evaluation of each patient and summary reports of the case from the police and courts.

The clinical records included patient demographic information, comprehensive history of the present illness, current and previous psychiatric history, history of the alleged offence, medical and surgical history, obstetric and gynaecological history, family history, social history, childhood history, and personal history. This routine individual history clerking was supported by information from family members, as well as routine physical examinations, mental state examinations, and relevant laboratory tests (such as urine or blood test for drugs), tests for general health--liver or kidney function test, etc., and psychological tests (such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 for personality test (31)).

Data Management and Analysis

The research was led by a senior consultant forensic psychiatrist. Research members in each forensic psychiatric institution included a team comprising a consultant forensic psychiatrist and a medical officer in psychiatry. At each institution, the respective team reviewed the registration records from 2000 to 2012. The inclusion criteria included cases of women (biological, adoptive, or stepmother of the victim) who killed or attempted to kill her child aged 18 years and below. The clinical records together with the summary of related police and court records were reviewed. Brief characteristics of the women (age, ethnicity, marital status, level of education, and cohabiting family members) and the characteristics of the victim (age, sex, and relationship with the parent), as well as method of killing and diagnosis were reviewed and evaluated by both team members and later discussed with the senior consultant psychiatrist. All psychiatric diagnoses including Axis I and Axis II disorders were based on the diagnosis reported in the clinical records and usually followed the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Text Revision. (32) The records were thoroughly discussed among the team and the stressors deemed crucial to the women's life were summarised. Discussions also included the process of grouping each case. In keeping with other types of classification, overlapping occurred. Thus each case was grouped according to Resnick's classification (2,4) only after each team member agreed that the chosen manifestation of the illness had the strongest influence on the women to commit filicide.

Ethics Approval

This study was approved by the Institute for Health Behavioural Research, Malaysia, National Institutes of Health Malaysia, Medical and Health Research Ethics Committee of Ministry of Health Malaysia, as well as Research and Ethics Committee of University Teknologi MARA.


Table 1 illustrates brief characteristics of all the women in the study. There were 18 cases of women who had committed filicide with consequent death of 24 children. All women in our forensic psychiatric wards were either admitted under a court order for observation because of suspected mental illness or had committed filicide for reasons of insanity. The mean age of women without Axis 1 psychiatric diagnosis was 26 years (range, 17-42 years) and that of those with Axis 1 diagnosis was 33 years (range, 23-41 years). Six (33%) of the women were Malays, 5 (28%) Chinese, 3 (17%) Indians, 3 (17%) immigrants, and 1 (5%) Punjabi (an ethnic group originating from Punjab, India). Those 24 victims (9 girls and 15 boys) aged from newborn to 16 years. There were 3 (13%) cases of neonaticide. Three (13%) of the victims were stepchildren. There were a variety of methods used to kill the child: suffocation by smothering or strangulation in 6 (33%) cases; slashing or stabbing of child with a sharp object in 4 (22%) cases; beating, hitting and stepping on child in 3 (17%) cases, and 1 case each of poisoning, throwing into the bush, dropping, burning, and drowning (Table 2).

Overall, 13 (72%) women were within the 12-month postpartum period. Major depression was present in 8 (44%) women, schizophrenia in 3 (17%), and 1 for each had personality disorder and adjustment disorder. The remaining women (n = 5; 28%) had no obvious psychiatric diagnosis. Their marital status varied from either the women or their spouse had had previous marriage, had first or second divorce, had polygamous marriage, or both had first marriage.

In terms of stress, the clinical records in 7 (39%) cases showed evidence of marital discord; of these cases, 2 showed evidence of physical, psychological, or sexual abuse within the family (domestic violence). Other important stressors were financial constraint (n = 6; 33%), a husband with alcohol or substance dependence (n = 4; 22%), an overprotective husband (the woman perceived that her husband was overcontrolling or limiting her activity) [n = 2; 11%], felt burdened looking after children (the women complained about looking after their children) [n = 2; 11%], and 1 case of a child with physical illness (heart problem).

Resnick's classification was used to group the cases. The most common groups were 'acute psychosis' (n = 5; 28%) and 'altruistic or attempted suicide' (n = 5; 28%) followed by 'battering or fatal child maltreatment' (n = 3; 17%) and 'unwanted child' (n = 3; 17%). The least common was 'retaliation or spouse revenge' (n = 2; 11%). In group 1, i.e. women with acute psychosis, the acts of filicide were mostly influenced by auditory hallucinations (4 women in this group). One woman (case 3) committed filicide during an episode of chronic and poorly controlled refractory psychosis because of cognitive deficit and poor judgement. This was also evidenced by a history of quarrelling with her husband about simple matters, for example, the child's birth certificate. In group 2, all women who attempted suicide and committed filicide were either Chinese or Indian. Three of the women (cases 6, 8, and 10) had altruistic thoughts that the children should die because they did not want them to undergo the same suffering they had experienced before. The behaviour of another woman (case 6) was also influenced by her belief that she had passed her 'bad karma' to her child.

One case of familicide occurred following a serious financial difficulty. The woman had severe anxiety and fear about threats from illegal loan sharks. In group 3, all the women who killed their child by battering were in their middle 20s. It was the second marriage for either the women or their spouse. In group 4, 2 of the women (cases 15 and 16) were the victim of rape although they had not reported the crime. Case 15, an immigrant who was working as a maid, was raped by her employer's relative. She was too afraid of being blamed and punished by her employer, and killed the unwanted baby immediately after the birth. In case 16, a female adolescent who lived with her parents, was the victim of date-and-drug rape. She had true denial of pregnancy. Both parents were unaware of the pregnancy until she killed the newborn. In group 5, cases 17 and 18 killed their child/ren as a result of anger and hatred about the husband's infidelity.


Only a limited number of cases from forensic clinical records are described so this study does not represent the true incidence of filicide in Malaysia. Despite this, we have managed to capture and add to the understanding of the variety of cases of maternal filicide. The characteristics of and motive to commit filicide by women in Malaysia are similar to those that have been described by many researchers before. (2,4,7-10)


In terms of background socio-demographics, women with Axis I psychiatric disorders who had committed filicide in our study were generally older than those without psychiatric disorder. The majority of them came from a low socioeconomic background and had a low level of education. This is consistent with the findings of previous studies of women with psychiatric disorders who committed filicide. (19,21,30,33)

Marital Stress

In this study, a variety of psychosocial factors were explored. Here, we would like to highlight the importance of marital discord or domestic violence. In the majority of cases, filicide occurred in a family where either the mother or father had a history of or current marital discord. Parents of our filicide victims had limited skills to maintain their interpersonal relationship with their spouse as evidenced by divorce in the current or a previous marriage. Some mothers who became perpetrators were in their early years of marriage. They were young women in their late 20s or early 30s who might not have been able to cope with becoming a mother, to nurture and look after many children; not only their own children but also stepchildren. The maltreatment of stepchildren compared with genetic children or the "Cinderella effect" as proposed by evolutionary psychologist, Daly and Wilson, (34) and investigated further by other researchers, (15,34-38) occurred in 2 of the 3 accidental or battering cases in our study. The burden of marital discord was obvious in this group of mothers.

Marital discord has been documented by other researchers to precipitate the act of filicide. (15,39-41) In a Hong Kong study of homicide-suicide in which about a third of the victims were children, termination of a marital or sexual relationship and other domestic disputes constituted approximately 20% to 39% of factors that contributed to the act of killing. (42) In Japan, severe marital discord was also documented as an important stressor for maternal filicide involving a child older than 1 year. (43) In contrast, in Finland, only 10% to 20% women who committed filicide were described as having difficulties in marriage or subject to domestic violence. (40) This low percentage may have been due to the small number of cases that were also confined to women with postpartum depression.

Spousal Attitude and Behaviour

Another crucial stressor was the attitude of a husband who was dependent on alcohol or illegal substances, and wives who generally remained loyal. In Malaysia, substance abuse is a serious problem. By 2004, approximately 234,000 heroin abusers were officially registered, and hundreds of thousands more heroin or other substance abusers were unreported or unregistered. (44) According to the National Anti-Drug Agency, (45) about 655 drug abusers are detected monthly in Malaysia. Drug misuse has had a significant adverse impact on the life of women in Malaysia. According to Women's Aid Organisation, (46) drugs such as rohypnol have been misused to hypnotise women or female youths in cases of date-rape or rape by an acquaintance. Drug misuse is also associated with child maltreatment. About 12% of the detected child abuse cases recorded by Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect team (a multidisciplinary medical, social, police, and legal team) in this country involve an abusive father who is an alcoholic or drug abuser. (47) Following drug abuse, some children, such as in this study, might become the victim of filicide.

Another crucial attitude of the spouse, which was present in this study, was being disloyal. Spousal infidelity has also been described by Resnick (2,4) in his classification of filicide. Such behaviour invites revenge and hatred leading to filicide as illustrated in Medea complex--wherein filicide occurred as a result of spousal infidelity. (48)

Mental Illness

The influence of psychosis as a motive for committing filicide among patients with schizophrenia or depressive disorder has been well recognised. The presence of this psychopathology such as auditory hallucinations that influence the act of killing has been documented by many researchers. (1,49) We found a smaller proportion of 21% compared with another study wherein approximately 69% of the severely mentally ill mothers who committed filicide experienced auditory hallucinations at the time of the offence. (49)

The active psychotic symptoms were present in this group of women in our study in part because they were either not receiving proper treatment or were noncompliant with medication. Locally, an important factor that contributes to a delay in seeking treatment for major psychiatric disorders or increases noncompliance with treatment is a preference for traditional remedies. (50,51) A study of postnatal depression in one state in Malaysia indicated that more than half of women were adhering to traditional remedies and the influence of traditional birth assistants ("Mak Bidan") in providing advice on physical and emotional care was still prominent. (52) More distressing is the fact that mothers with postnatal depression who attend a conventional medical consultation may not receive appropriate intervention. In a study in Malaysia, more than 50% of midwives who were the primary carers in a position to screen for postnatal depression had no clear understanding of the differences between postnatal blues and postnatal depression. (53) Postnatal blues is a benign condition that manifests with sadness, anxiety, irritability, and changes in appetite and sleep. It occurs in 50% to 90% of new mothers and the symptoms reduce spontaneously about 2 weeks postpartum. Postnatal depression is more severe and occurs in about 10% to 20% of new mothers. The onset of depressive symptoms occurs within 4 weeks postpartum or sometimes during pregnancy and peaks at 2 to 6 months. Such women may continue to feel depressed a year following delivery. Postnatal depression may be complicated by psychosis and must be differentiated from depressive symptoms that occur in bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. (54) In order to curb the act of filicide among women with psychiatric disorders in this country, a comprehensive goal to raise awareness and understanding of postpartum psychiatric disorders by the public and all health care workers is warranted.

Attempted Suicide and Financial Stress

Another important group of maternal filicide in our study was those with an altruistic motive or suicide attempt. Half of the women in our study who committed filicide-attempted suicide were Chinese who experienced devastating financial difficulties. Interestingly, local phenomenon of the financial crisis as a result of multiple debts from illegal creditors (or local term--'ah-long' or 'loan shark') has been widely reported by local media. A financial crisis has also been described as one of the important factors that precipitates filicide-suicide among Chinese in other countries such as Hong Kong. (39)

The pattern of this dichotomous act is in keeping with the pattern of suicide and attempted suicide cases in Malaysia with a high prevalence among Indians and Chinese and a low prevalence among Malays who are predominantly Muslim. Our study found no Malay women who committed filicide-attempted suicide. It has been argued that this difference arises because of differences between Islam and Hinduism and Buddhism. Islam is widely embraced by Malays and prohibits suicide. Hinduism and Buddhism are embraced by the majority of Indians and Chinese respectively, and may condone suicide in certain circumstances, such as maintenance of honour, integrity, and for spiritual purposes. (55)

Marginalised Woman

In our study of neonaticide cases, we demonstrated 2 important social scenarios that may contribute to the act of killing and that occur among marginalised groups of women in Malaysia; adolescents and immigrant workers. They experienced date-rape or rape by an acquaintance. According to Women's Aid Organisation, the number of reported rape cases in Malaysia has increased, from 1431 cases in 2002 to 2998 cases in 2012. (56) The actual number of cases is likely to be even higher since most cases, in particular acquaintance rape, often go unreported. Sexual violence among migrant workers is another serious problem that needs urgent attention. It occurs among women who are employed as legal or illegal domestic workers and who experience serious neglect and ill treatment, not only from their employers but also from other relevant authorities.

This study is limited by its nature of being descriptive and using a very small sample size of women incarcerated in a forensic psychiatric institution. Hence, the study did not represent all cases of filicide in Malaysia. It is a descriptive review of series of cases with no specific questionnaire to provide consistent evaluation of the variables. It also did not evaluate the records in-depth as in qualitative research.


Illustrating the various stressors experienced by women, such as financial constraint, marital disharmony, having a husband with alcohol or substance dependence, infidelity, and those who become victims of domestic violence and rape, may help inform and prepare mental health professionals. Although filicide is rare, exploring the thought of committing this act should be emphasised in every routine assessment and management of women with psychiatric disorders.


This work was supported by the Fundamental Research Grant Scheme (FRGS), Universiti Teknologi MARA, Ministry of Higher Education, Malaysia under Grant No.: 600-RMI/Ssp/FRGS/5/3Fsp(68/2010).


The authors would like to thank Hospital Bahagia Ulu Kinta, Perak and Hospital Permai, Johore, Malaysia, together with their dedicated staff for having rendered this research possible.


(1.) Valenca AM, Mendlowicz MV, Nascimento I, Nardi AE. Filicide, attempted filicide, and psychotic disorders. J Forensic Sci 2011;56:551-4.

(2.) Resnick PJ. Child murder by parents: a psychiatric review of filicide. Am J Psychiatry 1969;126:325-34.

(3.) Kauppi A, Kumpulainen K, Karkola K, Vanamo T, Merikanto J. Maternal and paternal filicides: a retrospective review of filicides in Finland. J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38:229-38.

(4.) Resnick PJ. Murder of the newborn: a psychiatric review of neonaticide. Am J Psychiatry 1970;126:1414-20.

(5.) Liem M, Koenraadt F. Familicide: a comparison with spousal and child homicide by mentally disordered perpetrators. Crim Behav Ment Health 2008;18:306-18.

(6.) Sidebotham P. Rethinking filicide. Child Abus Rev 2013;22:305-10.

(7.) Bourget D, Grace J, Whitehurst L. A review of maternal and paternal filicide. J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2007;35:74-82.

(8.) Bourget D, Bradford JM. Homicidal parents. Can J Psychiatry 1990;35:233-8.

(9.) Bourget D, Gagne P. Maternal filicide in Quebec. J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2002;30:345-51.

(10.) d'Orban PT. Women who kill their children. Br J Psychiatry 1979;134:560-71.

(11.) Guileyardo JM, Prahlow JA, Barnard JJ. Familial filicide and filicide classification. Am J Forensic Med Pathol 1999;20:286-92.

(12.) Silva JA, Leong GB, Dassori A, Ferrari MM, Weinstock R, Yamamoto J. A comprehensive typology for the biopsychosociocultural evaluation of child-killing behavior. J Forensic Sci 1998;43:1112-8.

(13.) Krischer MK, Stone MH, Sevecke K, Steinmeyer EM. Motives for maternal filicide: results from a study with female forensic patients. Int J Law Psychiatry 2007;30:191-200.

(14.) Laursen TM, Munk-Olsen T, Mortensen PB, Abel KM, Appleby L, Webb RT. Filicide in offspring of parents with severe psychiatric disorders: a population-based cohort study of child homicide. J Clin Psychiatry 2011;72:698-703.

(15.) Harris GT, Hilton NZ, Rice ME, Eke AW. Children killed by genetic parents versus stepparents. Evol Hum Behav 2007;28:85-95.

(16.) Lewis CF, Baranoski MV, Buchanan JA, Benedek EP. Factors associated with weapon use in maternal filicide. J Forensic Sci 1998;43:613-8.

(17.) Haapasalo J, Petaja S. Mothers who killed or attempted to kill their child: life circumstances, childhood abuse, and types of killing. Violence Vict 1999;14:219-39.

(18.) Rohde A, Raic D, Varchmin-SchultheiB K, Marneros A. Infanticide: sociobiographical background and motivational aspects. Arch Women Ment Health 1998;1:125-30.

(19.) Lewis CF, Bunce SC. Filicidal mothers and the impact of psychosis on maternal filicide. J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2003;31:459-70.

(20.) Beyer K, McAuliffe Mack S, Shelton JL. Investigative analysis of neonaticide: an exploratory study. Crim Justice Behav 2008;35:522-35.

(21.) McKee GR, Bramante A. Maternal filicide and mental illness in Italy: a comparative study. J Psychiatry Law 2010;38:271-82.

(22.) Stroud J. A psychosocial analysis of child homicide. Crit Soc Policy 2008;28:482-505.

(23.) Spinelli MG. A systematic investigation of 16 cases of neonaticide. Am J Psychiatry 2001;158:811-3.

(24.) Tursz A, Cook JM. A population-based survey of neonaticides using judicial data. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed 2011;96:F259-63.

(25.) Shelton JL, Corey T, Donaldson WH, Dennison EH. Neonaticide: a comprehensive review of investigative and pathologic aspects of 55 cases. J Fam Viol 2011;26:263-76.

(26.) Porter T, Gavin H. Infanticide and neonaticide: a review of 40 years of research literature on incidence and causes. Trauma Violence Abuse 2010;11:99-112.

(27.) Friedman SH, Resnick PJ. Child murder by mothers: patterns and prevention. World Psychiatry 2007;6:137-41.

(28.) Friedman SH, Resnick PJ. Neonaticide: phenomenology and considerations for prevention. Int J Law Psychiatry 2009;32:43-7.

(29.) Stone MH, Steinmeyer E, Dreher J, Krischer M. Infanticide in female forensic patients: the view from the evolutionary standpoint. J Psychiatr Pract 2005;11:35-45.

(30.) Laporte L, Poulin B, Marleau J, Roy R, Webanck T. Filicidal women: jail or psychiatric ward? Can J Psychiatry 2003;48:94-8.

(31.) Butcher JN, Graham JR, Ben-Porath YS, Tellegen A, Dahlstrom WG. MMPI-2: Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2. Minneapolis, US: University of Minnesota Press; 2003.

(32.) American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association; 2000.

(33.) McKee GR, Shea SJ. Maternal filicide: a cross-national comparison. J Clin Psychol 1998;54:679-87.

(34.) Daly M, Wilson M. The "Cinderella effect" is no fairy tale. Trends Cogn Sci 2005;9:507-8.

(35.) Friedman SH, Cavney J, Resnick PJ. Mothers who kill: evolutionary underpinnings and infanticide law. Behav Sci Law 2012;30:585-97.

(36.) Temrin H, Buchmayer S, Enquist M. Step-parents and infanticide: new data contradict evolutionary predictions. Proc Biol Sci 2000;267:943-5.

(37.) Temrin H, Nordlund J, Sterner H. Are stepchildren over-represented as victims of lethal parental violence in Sweden? Proc Biol Sci 2004;271(Suppl 3):S124-S126.

(38.) Tooley GA, Karakis M, Stokes M, Ozanne-Smith J. Generalising the Cinderella Effect to unintentional childhood fatalities. Evol Human Behav 2006;27:224-30.

(39.) Hon KL. Dying with parents: an extreme form of child abuse. World J Pediatr 2011;7:266-8.

(40.) Kauppi A, Kumpulainen K, Vanamo T, Merikanto J, Karkola K. Maternal depression and filicide--case study of ten mothers. Arch Womens Ment Health 2008;11:201-6.

(41.) Adinkrah M. When parents kill: an analysis of filicides in Fiji. Int J Offender Ther Comp Criminol 2001;45:144-58.

(42.) Chan CY, Beh SL, Broadburst RG. Homicide-suicide in Hong Kong, 1989-1998. Forensic Sci Int 2004;140:261-7.

(43.) Taguchi H. Maternal filicide in Japan: analyses of 96 cases and future directions for prevention [in Japanese]. Seishin Shinkeigaku Zasshi 2007;109:110-27.

(44.) Mazlan M, Schottenfeld RS, Chawarski MC. New challenges and opportunities in managing substance abuse in Malaysia. Drug Alcohol Rev 2006;25:473-8.

(45.) National Anti-Drug Agency (NADA) [Malaysia]. Laporan dadah bulan Disember. Kajang: Ministry of Home Affairs, Policy, Planning and Research Department; 2013.

(46.) Women's Aid Organisation. Drug rape. Available from: http://www. Accessed 27 Jan 2014.

(47.) Kasim MS, Shafie HM, Cheah I. Social factors in relation to physical abuse in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Child Abuse Negl 1994;18:401-7.

(48.) Stern ES. The Medea complex: the mother's homicidal wishes to her child. J Ment Sci 1948;94:321-31.

(49.) Friedman SH, Hrouda DR, Holden CE, Noffsinger SG, Resnick PJ. Child murder committed by severely mentally III mothers: an examination of mothers found not guilty by reason of insanity. 2005 Honorable Mention / Richard Rosner Award for the best paper by a fellow in forensic psychiatry or forensic psychology. J Forensic Sci 2005;50:1466-71.

(50.) Razali S, Khan UA, Hasanah CI. Belief in supernatural causes of mental illness among Malay patients: impact on treatment. Acta Psychiatr Scand 1996;94:229-33.

(51.) Razali SM, Najib MA. Help-seeking pathways among Malay psychiatric patients. Int J Soc Psychiatry 2000;46:281-9.

(52.) Mahmud WM, Shariff S, Yaacob MJ. Postpartum depression: a survey of the incidence and associated risk factors among Malay women in Beris Kubor Besar, Bachok, Kelantan. Malays J Med Sci 2002;9:41-8.

(53.) Keng SL. Malaysian midwives' views on postnatal depression. Br J Midwifery 2005;13:78-86.

(54.) Bobo WV, Yawn BP. Concise review for physicians and other clinicians: postpartum depression. Mayo Clin Proc 2014;89:835-44.

(55.) Morris P, Maniam T. Ethnicity and suicidal behaviour in Malaysia: a review of the literature. Transcultural Psychiatry 2001;38:51-63.

(56.) Women's Aid Organisation. Police statistics on violence against women in Malaysia. Available from: e+Statistics+on+Violence+Against+Women+2000-2012_99_6_1. htm#sthash.7NdLSF8x.dpuf. Accessed 21 Jan 2015.

Dr Salmi Razali, MD, MMedPsych, Psychological and Behavioural Medicine Discipline, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia.

Dr Raba'iah Mohd Salleh, MBBS, MMed (Psych), Dip (Forensic Psych), Forensic Psychiatry Unit, Hospital Bahagia Ulu Kinta, Perak, Malaysia.

Dr Badiah Yahya, MD, MMed (Psych), Dip (Forensic Psych), Forensic Psychiatry Unit, Hospital Permai, Tampoi, Johore, Malaysia.

Dr S. Hassan Ahmad, MBBS, DPM, Dip. Psych, MRCPsych, Psychological and Behavioural Medicine Discipline, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia.

Address for correspondence: Dr Salmi Razali, Psychological and Behavioural Medicine Discipline, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia.

Tel: (614) 5180 0435; Emails:

Submitted: 4 February 2015; Accepted: 5 March 2015
Table 1. Background characteristics of the offenders and victims.

Case                       Offender
         Age      Ethnicity             Marital status
                                    Women          Spouse

1        30         Malay            1st            2nd

2        34         Indian           1st            1st

3        35         Malay            1st         Polygamous

4        41        Chinese           2nd            1st

5        35         Malay            1st            1st

6        30         Indian           2nd            1st

7        35         Indian           2nd            1st

8        28        Chinese           1st            1st

9        38        Chinese           1st            1st

10       37        Chinese           1st            1st

11       27         Malay            1st            2nd

12       28      Indonesian *        1st         Polygamous

13       25         Malay            2nd            1st

14       42        Chinese           1st            1st

15       34      Indonesian *      Divorce        Divorce

16       17        Punjabi          Single           --

17       23      Myanmarian *   Second divorce    Divorce

18       33         Malay            1st            1st

Case    Offender            Victim
       Education         Age         Sex

1      3[degrees]     8 Months        F

2      2[degrees]     18 Months       M

3      1[degrees]      10 Days        F

4      1[degrees]      5 Years        F

5      2[degrees]     10 Months       M

6      2[degrees]     1/4 Years      F/F

7      2[degrees]    14/16 Years     M/M

8      2[degrees]     7 Months        F

9      2[degrees]   8/10/12 Years   M/M/M

10     3[degrees]     10 Months       F

11     2[degrees]      3 Years        M

12     1[degrees]      1 Year         M

13     2[degrees]      3 Years        F

14     1[degrees]     2 Months        M

15     1[degrees]      Newborn        M

16     2[degrees]      Newborn        M

17        Nil          Newborn        F

18     2[degrees]   7 Months/1.5    M/M/M
                    years/5 years

Case     Victim-         Person living
No.      offender           together

1       Biological    Husband and 1
                      biological child

2       Biological    Husband and 2
                      biological children

3       Biological    Husband and a child

4       Biological    Husband, 1
                      biological daughter,
                      and 3 stepchildren

5       Biological    Husband and 5
                      biological children

6       Biological    Husband and 2
                      biological children

7        Stepsons     Husband and 2

8       Biological    Husband, 2
                      biological children,
                      and in-laws

9       Biological    Husband and 3
                      biological children

10      Biological    Husband and a child

11      Biological    Husband, 3
                      biological children,
                      and a stepchild

12      Biological    Husband and 4
                      biological children

13     Stepdaughter   Husband and 3

14      Biological    Husband and 4
                      biological children

15      Biological    Employer

16      Biological    Parents

17      Biological    Parents

18      Biological    Husband and 3
                      biological children

Abbreviations: 1st = first marriage; 2nd = second marriage;
3[degrees] = tertiary education; 2[degrees] = secondary education
(Year 7-11);

1([degrees] = primary education (Year 1-6).

* These women were non-Malaysian citizens

Table 2. Classification of filicide, background psychiatric
problems, life events, and summary of alleged offence.

Case   Classification    Life event             Alleged offence
No.    of filicide

Group 1: Acute psychosis

1      Schizophrenia     Overprotective         Killing her daughter
       (postpartum 8     husband, marital       under the influence
       months)           discord                of auditory
                                                hallucination. She
                                                dropped her baby
                                                from her arm while '
                                                scrambling' with the
                                                voice of her husband
                                                who wanted to take
                                                the baby away

2      Schizophrenia     Marital discord,       Strangulating and
       with depression   husband was a drug     suffocating her son
                         addict, noncompliant   with the influence
                         with treatment         of auditory
       Suicide attempt                          hallucination

3      Resistant         Noncompliant with      Killing her daughter
       schizophrenia     treatment              by slashing her
       (postpartum 10                           abdomen for few
       days)                                    times with a sharp
                                                object after
                                                quarrelling with her
                                                husband regarding
                                                the child's birth

4      Major             Marital discord,       Killing her daughter
       depressive        domestic violence,     by strangulation
       disorder with     husband is alcoholic   under the influence
       psychosis         and drug addict        of auditory
                                                hallucination and
                                                excessive worries
                                                towards the child

5      Major             Financial              Killing her baby
       depressive        constraint, husband    when hearing a
       disorder with     was a drug addict      commanding auditory
       psychosis         and engaged in         hallucination.
       (postpartum 10    criminal activity      Following the
       months)                                  instruction of the
                                                voice, she smothered
                                                her baby with a
                                                pillow and later
                                                threw him into the

Group 2: Altruistic, attempted suicide

6      Major             Childhood sexual       She made a well-
       depression with   harassment             planned filicide-
       dysthymia                                suicide act during a
       (postpartum 1                            Valentine's Day.
       year)                                    Wrote a suicide note
                                                and hypnotised her
       Multiple                                 daughters with milk
       suicide                                  mixed with
       attempts                                 expectorant before
       Vaginismus                               suffocating them
                                                with pillows while
                                                sleeping. She then
                                                attempted suicide by
                                                overdosing with
                                                multiple drugs and
                                                cutting her arms and

7      Major             Financial constraint   Attempted filicide-
       depressive                               suicide by burning
       disorder with                            family home which
       psychosis                                killed her 2
                                                stepchildren while
                                                she escaped from the

8      Major             Financial              Attempted filicide-
       depressive        constraint, family     suicide by hanging
       disorder          history of mental      herself and slashing
       (postpartum 7     illness                the neck of her 7-
       months)                                  month-old daughter

9      Adjustment        Financial              Attempted familicide
       disorder          constraint, illegal    together with her
                         debt                   husband following a
                                                serious financial
                                                crisis and threats
                                                from illegal money
                                                lenders. They were
                                                too frightened and
                                                stressed and all
                                                family members drank
                                                rodent killer mixed
                                                in beverages

10     Major             Family history of      Drowning her baby in
       depressive        mental illness,        a large basin
       disorder          noncompliant with      because she did not
       (postpartum 10    medication             want her daughter to
       months)                                  suffer like her. Had
                                                asked forgiveness
       Attempted                                from husband before
       suicides                                 strangling herself
                                                prior to the

Group 3: Battering or fatal child maltreatment

11     No psychiatric    Overprotective         Felt excessively
       disorder          husband who was also   stressed by
       (postpartum 8     a drug addict          financial
       months)                                  difficulties and
                                                burden of housework;
                                                looking after all
                                                the children alone.
                                                She beat and hit her
                                                own 3-year-old son
                                                when he was soiling
                                                until he sustained
                                                multiple physical
                                                injuries and died
                                                the next day

12     No psychiatric    Marital discord,       Physically abused
       disorder          polygamous,            her children
       (postpartum 1     financial              following tremendous
       year)             constraint,            stress. She beat,
                         husband's infidelity   hit, and stepped on
                                                her 1-year-old son
                                                until he succumbed
                                                to death when her
                                                husband was believed
                                                to have had an
                                                extramarital affair
                                                with another girl

13     Borderline        Marital discord,       Stress living with 3
       personality       domestic violence,     stepchildren until
       disorder          alcohol and            she physically
                         substance              abused them. Her
                         dependence,            3-year-old
                         childhood parental     stepdaughter died of
                         separation             physical injuries
                                                following the

Group 4: Unwanted child

14     No psychiatric    Difficult baby         Fabricated a story
       disorder          behaviour, baby with   that her son was
       (postpartum 2     heart problem          taken away by
       months)                                  strangers. Had
                                                thrown him into a
                                                bush at nearby

15     No psychiatric    Raped by employer's    No police report of
       disorder          relative, afraid of    the rape. Aware of
       (postpartum <     being blamed and       pregnancy, but
       24 hours)         receiving punishment   concealed it by
                         from the employer      wearing loose
                                                garments. No
                                                perinatal care. She
                                                was fearful and
                                                confused during
                                                labour. In an
                                                attempt to conceal
                                                the delivery, she
                                                suffocated the
                                                newborn baby with
                                                her bare hand to
                                                stifle the first cry

16     No psychiatric    Victim of date rape    No police report of
       disorder                                 the rape. Had a true
       (postpartum <                            denial and concealed
       24 hours)                                pregnancy despite
                                                realising that she
                                                missed her menses
                                                and had increased in
                                                weight. During
                                                labour, she was
                                                panic-stricken and
                                                frightened, slashing
                                                the newborn baby
                                                repeatedly with a
                                                knife and throwing
                                                it into a drain near
                                                her backyard

Group 5: Retaliation, spouse revenge

17     Major             Marital discord,       She felt cheated,
       depressive        husband's              depressed, and angry
       disorder          infidelity, divorce    with her husband who
       (postpartum <                            slept with a girl in
       24 hours)                                front of her after 2
                                                days of her
                                                marriage. Purposely
                                                refused antenatal
                                                consultation and did
                                                not seek abortion.
                                                Stabbed her newborn
                                                baby with a knife
                                                after delivery

18     Major             Marital discord,       The husband with the
       depressive        husband's infidelity   aroma of a perfume
       disorder                                 given by his
       (postpartum 7                            girlfriend went out
       months)                                  for fun as usual.
                                                Angry with him, she
                                                threatened to kill
                                                their children if he
                                                did not return by 11
                                                pm. As he did not
                                                show up, she
                                                strangled her
                                                children's neck with
                                                wire while asleep
COPYRIGHT 2015 The Hong Kong College of Psychiatrists Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2015 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Original Article
Author:Razali, S.; Salleh, R.M.; Yahya, B.; Ahmad, S.H.
Publication:East Asian Archives of Psychiatry
Article Type:Report
Date:Jun 1, 2015
Previous Article:Association of clozapine with seizures: a brief report involving 222 patients prescribed clozapine.
Next Article:Interpersonal psychotherapy for postnatal anxiety disorder.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters