Women who commit deadly violence are different in many ways from male perpetrators, both in terms of the most common victims, the way in which the murder is committed, the place where it is carried out and the criminal’s background, a new study has found.
In almost all parts of the world, the majority of cases of deadly violence are committed by men – in nine cases out of ten, the perpetrator is a man, researchers said.
It is also men that have been the main focus of studies in this area.
Less is known about the characteristics of women who commit deadly violence, because they have been the subject of far fewer studies, they said.
Now, a Swedish research group has examined how the frequency of male and female perpetrators of deadly violence has changed during the years 1990–2010.
The study also investigated the similarities and differences between male and female perpetrators.
“The results show that deadly violence decreased, both in terms of male and female perpetrators. The study also showed that the proportion of female perpetrators in relation to men largely remained constant during the time period studied,” said Thomas Nilsson from University of Gothenburg.
Researchers studied data covering all cases of deadly violence in Sweden during the years between 1990 and 2010.
There were 1,570 cases of deadly violence committed during the observed time period, and of them 1,420 were committed by men (90.4 per cent) and 150 by women (9.6 per cent).
One clear trend is that the frequency, in other words the number of cases of legal violence per capita, decreased, researchers said.
They were able to see several differences between men and women who committed deadly violence.
“There were more pronounced differences between male and female perpetrators with adult victims compared with when the victim was a child (under 15 years),” said Thomas Nilsson from Sahlgrenska Academy.
“The home was the most common murder scene for all cases but it was even more common for female perpetrators, where the murder took place in the home in nearly 9 out of 10 cases,” said Nilsson.
The differences were fewer when the victim was a child. However, female perpetrators more frequently used asphyxia, namely, suffocation, compared with male perpetrators who committed deadly violence against a child, researchers said.
The female perpetrators also had fewer instances of sentences for previous criminal activity, they said.
Women were assessed to have carried out the crime under the influence of a severe mental disorder more often than men.
Crimes committed by women were more frequently classified as manslaughter or infanticide (due to the fact that only women can be convicted of infanticide), while crimes committed by men are more frequently classified as murder or involuntary manslaughter by assault, researchers said.
The findings were published in the International Journal of Forensic Mental Health.