Familicidal Hearts: The Emotional Styles of 211 Killers
Familicidal Hearts
Covers of the hardvcover and softcover edition.
Author(s) Neil Websdale
Published 2010
Publisher Oxford University Press
Country United States
Pages 322
ISBN 9780195315417

Familicidal Hearts: The Emotional Styles of 211 Killers is a book by Neil Websdale, published by Oxford University Press, New York City, NY in 2010 as volume 5 of the series Interpersonal Violence.


Oscar, physically and sexually abusive, stabbed his partner and two stepdaughters to death, buried the bodies, and fled the state with his two younger children. Paul, a respected investment banker, donned a Halloween mask and shot his wife and two children before turning the gun on himself. What drives individuals as different as Oscar and Paul to kill their families? Why does familicide appear to be on the rise?

In Familicidal Hearts, award-winning author and sociologist Neil Websdale uncovers the stories behind 196 male and 15 female perpetrators of this shocking offense, situating their emotional styles on a continuum, from the livid coercive to the civil reputable. With highly detailed and riveting case studies, Websdale explores the pivotal roles of shame, rage, fear, anxiety, and depression in the lives and crimes of the killers. His analysis demonstrates how internal emotional conflict, against a backdrop of societal pressures, is at the root of familicide, challenging the widely accepted argument that murderers kill family members to assert power and control. Websdale contends instead that most perpetrators struggle with intense shame, many sensing that they failed to live up to the demands of modern gender prescriptions, as fathers and lovers, wives and mothers. What emerges is a compelling theory about the haunting effects of modern emotional struggles on perpetrators, controlling and upstanding alike.

Captivatingly written and expertly researched, this provocative book weaves a gripping tale of modern-era "haunted hearts." Blending the social, the historical, and the emotional into a new way of making sense of a horrific crime, Familicidal Hearts is a provocative meditation on gender roles, social forces, and modern life itself.

Table of contentsEdit

Chapter* Page
1. Situating Familicide 1
Personal Statement 2
Approach 7
Modern Life: Linking Emotional, Social, and Historical Landscapes 13
The Historical Emergence of Familicide 18
Research into Familicide, Family Killing, and Homicide 19
2. Figurations of Feeling, Haunted Hearts, and Uncanny Acts 60
3. Familicide: A History 87
4. Livid Coercive Hearts 125
5. Civil Reputable Hearts 176
6. Familicide as a Consequenxce of Modern Emotional Formations 216
7. Some Implications: A Few Closing Thoughts 258
Appendix I: The Occupational Backgrounds of the Livid Coercive and Civil Reputable Hearts 285
Appendix II: The Racial/Ethnic Backgrounds of the Livid Coercive and Civil Reputable Hearts 286
Appendix III: Rates of Familicide 287
Appendix IV: Survey Instrument: Male Perpetrators 290
References 301
Index 313

*List of sub-chapters is incomplete.


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