Killing A Child: Neuropsychological Profiles of Murderers of Children

Nicole M. Azores-Gococo, Michael Brook, Saritha P. Teralandur, Robert E. Hanlon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This study examined neuropsychological characteristics of offenders who killed children. Although prior studies have focused on filicide and neonaticide, children are killed in a variety of contexts. This study used a diverse sample of individuals (N = 33) accused of killing one or more children, referred for forensic neuropsychological evaluation. Across all cognitive domains (intellectual functioning, attention/working memory/processing speed, memory, reasoning/executive functioning, language), mean scores fell in the low average to average range. Offenders who solely killed children were less likely to do so in a premeditated fashion, were more likely to use manual means (e.g., drowning or beating), and scored lower on measures of language and verbal memory, compared with those who also killed adults as part of the offense. Contrary to prior findings, few gender differences were evident in this group of offenders. Findings highlight meaningful heterogeneity in offenders who kill children, which may inform prevention, treatment, and risk assessment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)946-962
Number of pages17
JournalCriminal Justice and Behavior
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017


  • child victims
  • cognitive functioning
  • homicide
  • neuropsychological assessment
  • violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Psychology(all)
  • Law

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