Filicide-suicide is the most extreme form of family violence. This study identifies the traits of such cases by analyzing their prevalence, victims and perpetrators’ characteristics, methods, and motives based on the content of relevant newspaper articles.
Data were collected from representative newspapers from 2010 to 2020. A content analysis of 249 filicide-suicide cases was conducted.
Most filicide-suicide cases occurred at home. The most commonly used method for filicide-suicide was carbon monoxide poisoning; such cases were especially high among parents in their 30 s and 40 s. The second most commonly used method was strangulation or hanging, and adopted 1.5 times more often for filicide than for parents’ suicide. Regarding the perpetrators and victims’ characteristics, 58.2% of the cases were maternal filicide, followed by filicide involving both parents (26.1%), and paternal filicide (15.8%). Most of the children (75.1%) were minors, indicating that most filicide cases involve the parents’ violation of their children’s human rights. Regarding maternal filicide, most mothers were in their 30 s, and among all filicide-suicide cases, the majority of the perpetrators (63.6%) were in their 30 s and 40 s. The most common motive was financial difficulties, followed by difficulties in child rearing and hardships due to parents’ physical or mental illness.
This study revealed that the problem of filicide-suicide in South Korean society is an extreme form of domestic violence disguised as parental responsibility, and requires suicide prevention interventions and policies that focus on family relationships and strengthening social responsibility for filicide.