Understanding Domestic Homicide

By Swinford, Steven P. | Journal of Marriage and Family, February 2001 | Go to article overview

Understanding Domestic Homicide


Swinford, Steven P., Journal of Marriage and Family


Understanding Domestic Homicide. Neil Websdale. Boston: Northeastern University Press. 1999. 289 pp. ISBN 1-55553-393-0. $55.00 cloth, $22.50 paper.

Neil Websdale makes a meaningful contribution to the family violence literature in his book, Understanding Domestic Homicide. The author analyzes the case files from domestic homicides that occurred in Florida during 1994. A total of 319 cases were defined. The data include information from multiple criminal justice system sources, as well as information gathered by the author from newspaper reports, witnesses, and interviews. Basic demographic tables are presented in each chapter to frame the discussion, and the dominant analysis technique is an examination of the information contained in the multiple agency files and additional sources collected.

Websdale sets the stage for his study in chapter 1 by presenting the relevant extant literature and defines the types of relationships that qualify as domestic homicides. The author makes the argument that domestic killings involving more than one victim have distinctive features not found in single killings and proceeds to describe the multiple homicides perpetrated by men in chapter 2 and those perpetrated by women in chapter 3. Chapters 4 and 5 contain the analyses of single homicides involving female victims and male victims, respectively. In chapter 6 the cases involving the killing of children are presented. In chapter 7, the author pulls together insights gleaned from the analyses, looks at how the criminal justice system might improve its responses to domestic violence cases, and more thoroughly investigates the cultural variations in homicide rates that appear in the data. Throughout the book, the narratives and theoretical insights are integrated to help the reader understand the interactional dynamics involved in the homicides.

Several factors that often precede the killing of a woman by a man are presented.

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