Homicides followed by the suicide of the perpetrator (hereafter HS) are a rare yet very serious form of interpersonal violence which occurs mainly in partnerships and families. There has been very little systematic research on HS. The aim of the study is to collect total samples of HS in Germany and other European countries (Netherlands, Finland, Spain, Poland, England & Wales, Switzerland) for a period of 10 years backwards from newspaper archives and official sources and to combine a micro-level, psychological approach with a macro-level, sociological approach in the analysis of this data. The psychological approach will include in-depth interviews with surviving perpetrators of HS about the context, antecedence and personality dimensions of these events. The macro-level part focuses on social contexts and norms which increase the likelihood of HS events, following Durkheim’s idea that some forms of violence are fostered by ‘too much’ social integration and a prevalence of collectivist spirits.
Please see also the more extensive EHSS website!
This project is closely related to a project on honour killings in Germany.
Fund­ing: EU Mar­ie Curie European Re­in­teg­ra­tion Grant.

Hom­icides fol­lowed by the sui­cide of the per­pet­rat­or (here­after HS) are a rare yet very ser­i­ous form of in­ter­per­son­al vi­ol­ence which oc­curs mainly in part­ner­ships and fam­il­ies. As HS are not re­cor­ded in of­fi­cial crime stat­ist­ics, in most coun­tries not even the yearly num­ber of cases and vic­tims is known. Epi­demi­olo­gic­al stud­ies pur­sued in some coun­tries have es­tim­ated the HS rate (per 1 mil­lion total pop­u­la­tion) as 2-3 in the USA, 1.5 in Fin­land, 1.0 in Aus­tralia and 0.6 in Eng­land & Wales. The re­l­at­ive share of HS of all hom­icides tends to be high­er in coun­tries with a low over­all hom­icide rate, and lower in coun­tries with a high over­all hom­icide rate. Many leth­al cases of vi­ol­ence with­in in­tim­ate part­ner­ships and fam­il­ies are HS, es­pe­cially in­volving chil­dren.
By defin­i­tion, two well-re­searched types of leth­al vi­ol­ence over­lap in the case of HS: hom­icide and sui­cide. However, it is ques­tion­able wheth­er the find­ings about hom­icide and sui­cide which are of­ten con­tra­dict­ory suit this pe­cu­li­ar type of vi­ol­ence. There is a tra­di­tion in vi­ol­ence re­search to re­gard hom­icide and sui­cide as ant­ag­on­ist­ic ex­pres­sions of hu­man ag­gres­sion. Pre­vi­ous stud­ies on HS have sug­ges­ted two typ­ic­al motives: a) an ‘ex­ten­ded sui­cide’ in which a par­ent (either fath­er or moth­er) ‘takes the chil­dren with him/her’ in a pseudo-al­tru­ist­ic and non-hos­tile mood; b) a hom­icide fol­lowed by sui­cide com­mit­ted by a male part­ner who in­tends to pun­ish the fe­male part­ner for per­ceived sexu­al in­fi­del­ity or in­tend to sep­ar­ate. De­press­ive and sui­cid­al symp­toms of­ten seem to play a role, but a psy­cho-patho­lo­gic­al con­di­tion has been found only in a minor­ity of cases. Com­pared to oth­er forms of hom­icide, per­pet­rat­ors of HS are less likely to show risk factors like pre­vi­ous con­vic­tions, pre­vi­ous do­mest­ic vi­ol­ence or cer­tain so­cio-demo­graph­ic mark­ers which render HS cases par­tic­u­larly un­pre­dict­able.
The primary aim to im­prove the un­der­stand­ing of the causes and ‘risk factors’ of HS will be ap­proached on two levels. A psy­cho­lo­gic­al part will ana­lyse in-depth in­form­a­tion from the files, and in ad­di­tion from qual­it­at­ive in­ter­views of im­prisoned per­pet­rat­ors who sur­vived a sui­cide at­tempt. This mi­cro-level ana­lys­is which is re­stric­ted to the Ger­man sample will look to in­di­vidu­al cases, their ante­cedences, con­stel­la­tions and per­son­al­it­ies of per­pet­rat­ors. The macro-level, so­ci­olo­gic­al part which in­cludes samples from more European coun­tries (Neth­er­lands, Fin­land, Spain, Po­land, Eng­land & Wales, and Switzer­land) will look to the con­tex­tu­al in­flu­ences on HS in a Durkheimi­an per­spect­ive. Of­fi­cial (census) and sur­vey meas­ure­ments on so­cial in­teg­ra­tion and so­cial val­ues will be em­ployed to ex­plain re­gion­al and na­tion­al vari­ations in the HS rate, fol­low­ing Emile Durkheim’s the­ory of so­cial in­teg­ra­tion which as­sumes that so­ci­et­ies with an em­phas­is on tra­di­tion­al, col­lect­iv­ist norms tend to foster rather than re­duce vi­ol­ence. In this per­spect­ive, cer­tain types of do­mest­ic vi­ol­ence could be a down­side of strong so­cial in­teg­ra­tion. It seems plaus­ible to as­sume that a tra­di­tion­al no­tion of fam­ily and gender hier­archy con­trib­utes to the mo­tiv­a­tion of (male) per­pet­rat­ors in many cases of HS.


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