NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Family Connection in Mass Murders

September 4, 2001

Family killings are more common than the public generally supposes and can be easy to explain, criminologists report.

  • James Alan Fox, a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University in Boston, says that 40 percent of mass murders in the U.S. are in the family and "are not random shootings at a McDonald's or a shopping mall."
  • Justice Department figures show that from 1976 to 1999, there were 194 mass slayings in which four or more family members were killed.
  • That's an average of about eight a year.
  • In the past 10 weeks, police have recorded 23 deaths in four violent incidents.

Fox theorizes that a man often kills to "get even" with a woman suspected of unfaithfulness or trying to end the relationship -- and he kills the children as an extension of her.

Jobless men may be prompted to kill because their sense of self-worth has been violated, according to Fox.

When one episode of slayings follows another, there is reason to believe a "copycat" principle is at work.

Source: Martin Kasindorf, "Mass Killings Often Not Random," USA Today, September 4, 2001.


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