Archives of Women's Mental Health

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 249–256 | Cite as

The worldwide incidence of neonaticide: a systematic review

  • Cintia T. Tanaka
  • William Berger
  • Alexandre M. Valença
  • Evandro S. F. Coutinho
  • Girardin Jean-Louis
  • Leonardo F. Fontenelle
  • Mauro V. Mendlowicz
Review Article


Neonaticide is the killing of a neonate on the day of its birth by his/her own mother. Neonaticidal women were reported to be predominantly young, unmarried, and primiparous. The motive for murdering the newborn relates to the shame, the fear of rejection, and abandonment by significant others, and the social stigmas associated with an illegitimate birth. The goal of the present study was to conduct a systematic review of the scientific literature and identify population-based studies reporting the incidence of neonaticide in different countries. A total of 485 abstracts were screened. After applying the inclusion/exclusion criteria, 10 studies were selected. Additional searches identified two more articles. Most of these studies were from Europe, where incidence varied from 0.07 (Finland, 1980–2000 period) to 8.5 neonaticides per 100000 births (Austria, 1975–2001 period). More recent studies have indicated that a growing proportion of neonaticidal women are married, multiparous, and suffers from mental disorders. Preventive measures, such as anonymous free delivery, were shown to reduce the incidence of neonaticide, although this effect may be short-lived. Despite social and institutional changes, neonaticide persists even in the most socially advanced, liberal, and prosperous societies in the world.


Neonaticide Newborn murder Infanticide Epidemiology Shame Social stigma 


Compliance with ethical standards


Dr Fontenelle is currently receiving grant 303773/2011-1 from the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq)–Federal Government of Brazil, grant E-26/103.252/2011 from the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ), and an additional support (grant number not available) from D’Or Institute for Research and Education (IDOR).

Dr. Mendlowicz is currently receiving grant 303773/2011-1 from the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq)–Federal Government of Brazil.

Dr. Coutinho is currently receiving grant 06575/2011-6 from the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq)–Federal Government of Brazil.

The funders had no role in study design, data collection, and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Conflicts of interest

The authors report no potential conflicts of interest relevant to the subject of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cintia T. Tanaka
    • 1
  • William Berger
    • 1
  • Alexandre M. Valença
    • 1
    • 2
  • Evandro S. F. Coutinho
    • 3
  • Girardin Jean-Louis
    • 4
  • Leonardo F. Fontenelle
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
    • 6
  • Mauro V. Mendlowicz
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of PsychiatryUniversidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (IPUB – UFRJ)Rio de JaneiroBrazil
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Mental HealthUniversidade Federal Fluminense (MSM-UFF)NiteróiBrazil
  3. 3.Department of Epidemiology and Quantitative Methods in HealthEscola Nacional de Saúde Pública (ENSP-FIOCRUZ)Rio de JaneiroBrazil
  4. 4.Center for Healthful Behavior Change, Department of Population HealthNew York University School of MedicineNew YorkUSA
  5. 5.D’Or Institute for Research and Education (IDOR)Rio de JaneiroBrazil
  6. 6.School of Psychological Sciences & Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical NeurosciencesMonash UniversityVictoriaAustralia

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