As part of our dissemination goals The Hub aims to provide accessible and reliable information relating to filicide. The Hub has carried out studies on filicide alone and in collaboration with services and with other research groups.
The first study, published in 2012 as An Abominable Crime: Filicide in the Context of Parental Separation and Divorce in Children Australia reviewed all research (international and Australian) to identify what was known about filicide, what factors might be involved in causation, and what the current state of research progress was. The study showed that research internationally was sparse and even more sparse in Australia, with the Mouzos and Rushworth (2003) being the first Australian study on filicide. The review identified that research methodology was moving from small studies on sub-categories of filicide and on the gender of perpetrators to broader scale longer term studies. Many factors had been identified as related, including parental separation, and the picture was somewhat confused.
The second study, published in 2014 as two articles Filicide: Recasting Research and Intervention (editorial) in Child Abuse Review, UK, and Filicide and Parental Separation and Divorce, Child Abuse Review, was a 10- year retrospective study, 2000 to 2009, of all filicide deaths in Victoria. It was carried out with the cooperation of the Victorian Coroner’s Office which provided access to the files of all the children who had died. The study was the first to identify the incidence of deaths in Victoria and showed that on average 5 children under 18 died at the hands of a parent or parent equivalent every year. While the yearly incidence varied a little, it remained stable long team. The study gave comparative profiles of parental perpetrators and identified a constellation of 5 perpetrator characteristics (mental illness, domestic violence, partnership breakdown, substance abuse and history of child abuse) as being present in all perpetrator groups although factors varied in frequency from one group to another. The study also showed that, contrary to many assumptions, perpetrators were in contact with services.
The third study published in 2019 in the report Filicide In Australia: A National Study (Brown et al., 2019), and the Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice No. 568 Filicide Offenders was carried out in collaboration with a team from the Australian Institute of Criminology. It was another retrospective study covering a longer period, 2000-2012, a wider territory, all Australian states and territories, and an extended age range, children under and over 18. This study, using the National Homicide Monitoring Program housed within the Australian Institute of Criminology, Canberra, found that nationally some 25 children under 18 and 2 over 18 died at the hands of a parent or parent equivalent and, as had been the case in the Victorian study, the incidence was not declining as in other family homicides, but staying the same. The same 5 risk factors occurred and, due to the inclusion of data on criminal histories in the data base, a further risk factor emerged, that of past criminal offenses, usually including violence. The study identified step-fathers as a high risk group and that they needed more investigation. The study showed also some considerable variations in incidence with Queensland presenting as the most problematic of all states. This study and the Victorian study underlined the absence of any annual monitoring or investigation of filicide in Australia and the conclusion that the problem had become serious and was showing no signs of improvement over time.