Familicidal Hearts: The Emotional Styles of 211 Killers

Front Cover
Oxford University Press, Feb 10, 2010 - Social Science - 336 pages
2 Reviews
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.

What people are saying - Write a review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

Excellant read
Its great but you can't save it

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

What a wealth of information on such a facinating topic! Another great source provided by Dr. Websdale.


1 Situating Familicide
2 Figurations of Feeling Haunted Hearts and Uncanny Acts
A History
4 Livid Coercive Hearts
5 Civil Reputable Hearts
6 Familicide as a Consequence of Modern Emotional Formations
A Few Closing Thoughts
The Occupational Backgrounds of the Livid Coercive and Civil Reputable Hearts
The RacialEthnic Backgrounds of the Livid Coercive and Civil Reputable Hearts
Rates of Familicide
Survey Instrument Male Perpetrators

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2010)

Neil Websdale, PhD, is a Professor of Criminal Justice at Northern Arizona University and the Director and Principal Project Advisor of the National Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative (US Department of Justice).

Bibliographic information