Since the 1980s, there's been an appreciable rise in people killing their families, and researchers have started to see a pattern. In a new study, British criminologists have identified four personality types that are common among people who commit this horrifying crime.
There's a great article on the BBC today about the study. Apparently the main catalyst for family murder is divorce or family separation, followed closely by money troubles. Under stress from these problems, certain personality types will become homicidal.
Here are the types, according to the BBC:
Self-righteous: Killer seeks to locate blame for his crimes upon the mother who he holds responsible for the breakdown of the family. For these men, their breadwinner status is central to their idea of the ideal family. (case study: Brian Philcox)
Anomic: The family has become firmly linked to the economy in the mind of the killer. The father sees his family as the result of his economic success, allowing him to display his achievements. However, if the father becomes an economic failure, he sees the family as no longer serving this function. (case study: Chris Foster)
Disappointed: This killer believes his family has let him down or has acted in ways to undermine or destroy his vision of ideal family life. An example may be disappointment that children are not following the traditional religious or cultural customs of the father. (case study: Mohammed Riaz)
Paranoid: Those who perceive an external threat to the family. This is often social services or the legal system, which the father fears will side against him and take away the children. Here, the murder is motivated by a twisted desire to protect the family. (case study: Graham Anderson)
Birmingham City University criminologist David Wilson, a co-author of the study, said one possible reason for the increase in these murders is backlash against independent women. Out of 71 family killers the researchers studied, 59 were male. Wilson called it a "male crime," and said these men had extremely traditional, stereotypical ideas about "what it means to be a husband and a father within an institution called a family. Their view of the family is very black and white, and doesn't reflect the increasingly dynamic role that women can play in the economy and in the institution of the family itself."
Read the full scientific study, "A taxonomy of male British family annihilators, 1980-2013," which is forthcoming in the Howard Journal of Criminal Justice (in the meantime, you can read this release about the study).