A narrative approach to understanding child homicide from the perspective of incarcerated South African parents convicted of killing their children
South Africa has among the highest reported rates of neonaticide and infanticide, yet we do not know much about the circumstances surrounding parental child killing. Therefore, this dissertation sought to address this lacuna in the research literature. The dissertation is divided into two phases. Phase one includes a scoping review, which describes research on the homicide of infants (aged 0-1 year), pertaining to victim and perpetrator characteristics. A search of 18 databases, yielded 53 included articles, of which 39 were case studies, two were qualitative, and 12 were quantitative. The review’s main finding is the shortage of good quality data as most included studies were case studies. Therefore, we hope that this review encourages the development of a larger scholarship of robust research focused on the homicide of infants. Phase two presents the findings of a life history study, couched within a biopsychosocial epistemology, undertaken to uncover the life stories of parents who are incarcerated for killing either a biological child, a stepchild, or a child in their care. The qualitative study draws on 49 in-depth interviews with 22 participants. Attachment theory, epigenetics, feminist theory, and the social ecological theory assisted in understanding this crime. Through a grounded theory analysis of the life stories presented, it becomes evident how traumatic parent-child experiences in the form of absent parents, neglect, and abuse, had a profound impact on these participants. Their narratives suggest that, in the absence of reparative environments, their histories of childhood abuse and abandonment were potentially risk factors for negative consequences in the parenting role, as they likely reenacted these cycles of unhealthy behavior with partners and children.