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
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access
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.
Haridas S, Patekar M, Ninal N, Zine K (2014) Newborn infanticide within hospital premise an unusual case report. J Indian Acad Forensic Med 36(2):220–222Google Scholar
Herman-Giddens ME, Smith JB, Mittal M, Carlson M, Butts JD (2003) Newborns killed or left to die by a parent: a population-based study. JAMA 289(11):1425–1429CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
Kauppi A, Kumpulainen K, Karkola K, Vanamo T, Merikanto J (2010) Maternal and paternal filicides: a retrospective review of filicides in Finland. J Am Acad Psychiatry Online 38(2):229–238Google Scholar
Klier C, Grylli C, Amon S, Fiala C, Weizmann‐Henelius G, Putkonen H (2013) Is the introduction of anonymous delivery associated with a reduction of high neonaticide rates in Austria? BJOG 120(8):1028–1029CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
Krüger P (2015) Prevalence and phenomenology of neonaticide in Switzerland 1980–2010: a retrospective study. Violence Vict 30(2):194–207CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
Lefaucheur N (2004) The French ‘Tradition’of anonymous birth: the lines of argument. Int J Law Policy Fam 18(3):319–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mishra K et al (2014) Neonaticide in India and the stigma of female gender: report of two cases. Paediatr Int Child Health 34(3):224–226CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
Orthofer M, Orthofer R (2013) Is the introduction of anonymous delivery associated with a reduction of high neonaticide rates in Austria? A retrospective study. BJOG 120(8):1028CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
Ottesen V (2012) A current absence of neonaticide in Norway. Scand J Forensic Sci 18(2):155–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Outwater A, Mgaya E, Campbell JC, Becker S, Kinabo L, Menick DM (2010) Homicide of children in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 2005. East Afr J Public Health 7(4):345PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
Putkonen H, Weizmann-Henelius G, Collander J, Santtila P, Eronen M (2007) Neonaticides may be more preventable and heterogeneous than previously thought–neonaticides in Finland 1980–2000. Arch Womens Ment Health 10(1):15–23CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar