Date of Submission

Spring 2012

Academic Program


Project Advisor 1

Sarah Dunphy-Lelii

Abstract/Artist's Statement

The objective of this review was to determine why women who kill their children are treated more leniently than their male counterparts by the legal system. The leniency extended toward female offenders of filicide is striking because the violation of the mother-nurturer stereotype of women would predict more severe legal outcomes compared to male offenders, who have not violated their gender stereotype of dominance, aggression, and violence. This paper contains an overview of the cognitive and affective processes that contribute to the decision-making process of jurors, including stereotypes and prejudices surrounding gender and mental illness. It also examines filicide in the U.S., comparing the features of male and female offenders and their offenses. This analysis will determine whether sufficient gender differences in filicide characteristics (e.g., motivation and method) exist to justify the disparate legal outcomes for male and female offenders. Finally, I extend the literature presented by proposing two novel, empirical studies to address some of the complexities raised in this paper.

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