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Palgrave Macmillan


The Killing of Children in the Context of Separation, Divorce and Custody Disputes

ISBN 9781137024329
Publication Date March 2014
Formats Ebook (PDF) Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

This book explores the phenomenon of children being suddenly and often brutally killed by parents who have invariably professed their love for them. It reviews 128 cases of filicide in the UK between 1994 and 2012. The cases are presented in a way in which the magnitude of each tragedy is acknowledged.

Very often in these cases, relationships between the parents are disintegrating, or, parents have already separated in an atmosphere of bitterness and hostility. Professionals may be involved trying to ensure that the children are not being used and exploited by either parent. Custody and access is usually a major source of tension. The book identifies relationship and family patterns in which the situation may rapidly deteriorate, and a parent may begin to perceive the child's life as the ultimate weapon in the dispute with their partner. O'Hagan explores the legal contexts which provide guidance for the key agencies involved. He provides frameworks for assessment derived from actual cases, and considers the implications for frontline workers.

This book will be a valuable resource for criminology and social work scholars as well as practitioners, trainers and managers working in the fields of social work, child protection and law.

Kieran O'Hagan is an established writer and former Reader in the School of Social Work at Queen's University, Belfast. He has worked for over twenty years in the social services in Britain.

1. Oh My God…I Made a Mistake…
2. Features of Filicide: More Common Than We Think
3. Learning from the Greeks
4. Filicide Literature and Research
5. The Results of a Study of Filicide and Familicide
6. Mental Illness and Filicide Killings
7. To Kill Out of Love?
8. The Legislative Context
9. Jackie's Story
10. A Way Forward


"Kieran O'Hagan's latest contribution to the child protection literature once again challenges the dominant orthodoxies. O'Hagan passionately and ethically analyses the killing of children in separation, divorce and custody disputes.This powerful and descriptive work will resonate in child protection systems around the world. O'Hagan closely examines the awful, final symbolism of many of these devastating acts. The research will contribute to the work of all those involved in child protection: social workers, nurses, doctors, police, lawyers and judges. Many children would be safer if there were fewer bureaucratic responses to these tragedies and more original and perceptive thinkers like O'Hagan contributing to this important area of practice." - Chris Goddard, Monash University, Australia
"...the comprehensiveness of the book makes it particularly useful as a resource to dip in and out of. It would be of benefit to social workers, criminal justice practitioners, domestic violence workers, family lawyers—in fact, almost anyone who has professional contact with, or an interest in, family conflict and violence. It would also serve policymakers well—O'Hagan's final chapter makes some important policy recommendations based on his conclusion that filicide-suicide is both preventable and predictable..." - Amanda Holt, British Journal of Criminology
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