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Infanticide and Filicide

Foundations in Maternal Mental Health Forensics

Edited by Gina Wong, Ph.D., and George Parnham, J.D.

  • 2021
  • 0 Pages
  • ISBN 978-1-61537-351-2
  • Item #37351
Coming December 2020!


Maternal filicide—the killing of a child by the mother—is not a new phenomenon. Evidence of mothers killing their infant’s dates back to at least 2000 b.c.e. and the ancient Chaldean civilization. When a mother kills her children, it breaks a cardinal rule that violates the natural course of life—that is, the maternal instinct to safeguard the survival of her young. Andrea Yates captured public attention when she drowned her five children in 2001. Initially met with public shock and outrage, the Yates case also spotlighted postpartum psychosis and the intersection of maternal mental illness and the criminal justice system.

Coedited by George Parnham, the attorney who successfully defended Yates, this book includes his narrative account of how he first heard about the case and was ultimately hired to represent her. It also features more than 30 experts in the field representing eight countries and provides real case examples. In addition, the book includes a chapter on paternal filicide, an important subject that receives far too little attention in the literature. Firmly rooted in research, thorough in its description of theory, and packed with practical applications, this collection highlights the necessary competency areas for those involved in maternal mental health forensics, whether psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, or lawyers.

The book is organized along the four foundations of maternal mental health forensics:

  • The legal aspects surrounding maternal infanticide and filicide
  • The impact of perinatal psychiatric complications in maternal filicide
  • The role of the expert witness in infanticide and filicide cases
  • Sociocultural considerations and feminist approaches to prevention and treatment

Each chapter culminates in a summary of main clinical/legal and cultural points and a section of practice questions and discussion prompts. A glossary at the end of the book provides key terms and concepts.

Useful as an educational and training resource for those involved in maternal infanticide and filicide cases—either on the defense or prosecution—or those simply interested in the field, this guide offers a comprehensive understanding of the legal outcomes, greater understanding of the multiple motivations for these crimes, their potential psychiatric underpinnings, the social and global contexts, and advanced understanding from a biopsychosocial perspective.

This volume also illuminates the consequences of untreated or poorly treated perinatal mental illness and further establishes maternal mental health forensics as a subspecialty field in its own right, even as it acknowledges differences in opinion, theory, and conceptualizations. In doing so, this book serves as an important and necessary step toward canonizing the field of maternal mental health forensics and continued understanding beyond filicide and infanticide—which involves child custody disputes, other homicide cases, assault charges, criminal negligence causing bodily harm, and other offenses in which maternal mental disturbance may have played a key role.



    Foundation I: Legal Aspects Surrounding Maternal Infanticide and Filicide

    Chapter 1. Honoring the Legacy of the Andrea Yates Case
    Chapter 2. Becoming A Legal Expert in Infanticide and Filicide Cases in the United States
    Chapter 3. A Ground-Breaking Illinois Postpartum Law Brings Hope for Change in the United States
    Chapter 4. Delineating the Meaning of Disturbance of Mind in Canadian Infanticide Law
    Chapter 5. Fathers and Filicide: Mental Illness and Outcomes

    Foundation II: The Impact of Perinatal Psychiatric Complications in Maternal Infanticide and Filicide

    Chapter 6. Role of Perinatal Psychiatric Complications in Infanticide and Filicide
    Chapter 7. Altruistic Filicide: A Trauma-Informed Perspective
    Chapter 8. Understanding the Mysteries of Pregnancy Denial

    Foundation III: The Role of the Expert Witness in Maternal Infanticide and Filicide Cases

    Chapter 9. Reflections of an Expert Witness in the Andrea Yates Case
    Chapter 10. Becoming an Expert Witness in Maternal Filicide Cases
    Chapter 11. Writing the Maternal Filicide Report: Pearls of Wisdom for Expert Witnesses

    Foundation IV: Sociocultural Considerations and Feminist Approaches to Prevention and Treatment

    Chapter 12. Maternal Filicide in Canadian News: A Decade in Review
    Chapter 13. Trauma and Attachment: Preventing Maternal Filicide Through the Generations
    Chapter 14. Maternal Filicide in Malaysia: Structural Inequality and Cultural Disparity
    Chapter 15. Postpartum Support International: A Leading Resource Center for Maternal Filicide in the United States

    Clinical Cases: Application of Foundations and Practical Considerations

    Chapter 16. Clinical Case 1: The Dark Side of Mother: A Clinical Case in Italy
    Chapter 17. Clinical Case 2: Falling Between the Cracks of Medical Care: A Case of Infanticide in South Africa


About the Authors

Gina Wong, Ph.D., is a Psychologist, Professor, and Program Director of the Graduate Centre for Applied Psychology at Athabasca University, Alberta, and an Adjunct Professor in the Division of Counselling Psychology at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Dr. Wong is also the Founder and Director of Maternal Mental Health Progress in Canada and the Centre for Perinatal Psychology and Forensics International.

George J. Parnham, J.D., is a Criminal Defense Attorney with Parnham & Associates in Houston, Texas. He is licensed to Practice in Texas and New York as well as federal courts and is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Mr. Parnham is a Co-Founder of the Yates Children Memorial Fund and a Director Emeriti of Mental Health America of Greater Houston.

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