Murder Followed by Suicide in Australia, 1973-1992: A Research Note

By Barnes, Jo | Journal of Sociology, March 2000 | Go to article overview

Murder Followed by Suicide in Australia, 1973-1992: A Research Note


Barnes, Jo, Journal of Sociology


Introduction

Murder-suicide has been a somewhat neglected topic of study in sociology and has mainly been the domain of mental health and epidemiology studies. As a consequence, the conclusions drawn have concentrated on the occurrence of murder-suicide as a rare event that is perpetrated by a mentally unstable person who has finally lost control. This has meant that the social circumstances that surround the event have been ignored or accepted as a given. This study focuses on intimate and familial murder-suicide and places these types of murder-suicide in a feminist framework in order to add an extra dimension to existing explanations.

A general overview of the literature reveals three distinct approaches to the study of murder followed by suicide. The first approach is the comparison of murder-suicide with the separate acts of murder and suicide (e.g. Wolfgang 1958; West 1965; Mackenzie 1961; Wallace 1986). The second approach is that which accounts for murder-suicide in terms of mental illness (e.g. Berman 1979; Goldney 1977; Rosenbaum 1990). And finally, there have been a number of empirical studies which seek to describe murder-suicide in terms of the profiles of offender and victim, the relationship of the offender to the victim, and the context in which the murder-suicide took place (e.g. Palmer and Humphrey 1980; Allen 1983; Easteal 1994).

The various studies have been useful in identifying the actors involved in murder-suicide and in describing the relationships and circumstances that surround many of the events. Murder-suicide is a gendered activity--in the majority of cases men are the instigators of murder-suicide and women and children are the victims. It is also familial--the victims are predominantly intimately involved with the offender or they are the children of the offender. Expressions of jealousy, frustration and hostility that culminate in violence, which is often an on-going factor within the relationship, are also recognised as important components in the murder-suicide event. Yet previous researchers have taken their existence for granted and have failed to question why men should feel jealous or hostile towards their wives or lovers. Why is it that men, in particular, are so determined not to allow their partner to leave? Why do the male offenders feel jealous and hostile to such an extent that they would rather kill the one they love and die themselves than accept that their partner no longer wishes to be part of their lives? The social context within which notions of ownership and control have developed and the use of violence to enforce them is an important element which needs to be addressed in relation to the murder-suicide event.

There has generally been a lack of gender differentiation in the studies of murder-suicide. The lack of concentration on women as offenders is understandable because of the much smaller incidence of women offenders in the murder-suicide event. However, the omission of a discussion around gender from the descriptions of murder-suicide results in two outcomes. First, an assumption is made that the conditions of women's lives are essentially the same as those of men and therefore an analysis that reflects men's experience is basis enough to describe the role of men and women in the murder-suicide event. Second, although the conditions of women's lives may differ from those of men, these differences are not seen as pertinent to the murder-suicide event.

While some studies acknowledge that children are often the victims in murder-suicides, most researchers have concentrated on the intimate relationship between offender and victim. This has meant that general descriptions of murder-suicide have tended to include male and female offenders as one category with only passing reference to the fact that while male offenders tend to murder adult females and sometimes their own children, female offenders are much more likely to kill only their children. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Murder Followed by Suicide in Australia, 1973-1992: A Research Note
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.