BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS SPECIAL REPORT MURDER IN FAMILIES
By John M. Dawson and Patrick A. Langan, Ph.D., BJS Statisticians, 1994
This survey of murder cases that were disposed of in 1988 in the courts of 33 large urban counties reported:
Table 1 - Murder victims by victim-assailant family relationship, 1988
of Victim to Number Percent
All 8,063 100.0%
Family 1,308 16.2
Offspring 285 3.5
Parent 154 1.9
Sibling 123 1.5
Other 218 2.5
Table 3. Alcohol use at the time
of the murder, history of mental illness,
unemployment, and homelessness, by the family relationship of murder victims
and defendants, 1988
Alcohol Use History of
of Victim at Time of Mental Unemployed Homeless
to Assailant the Murder(1) Illness
All 64.4% 4.3% 35.3% 1.6%
Family 47.6 14.3 29.1 1.2
Offspring 29.8 15.8 28.9 0
Parent 28.4 25.1 33.6 2.3
Sibling 53.9 17.3 34.9 3.3
(1) Alcohol use was coded only
if alcohol was present in the defendant at the
time of the murder. This study did not report on drug use because of concerns
about the credibility of the drug use data.
According to these figures:
- A victim is 22 times more likely
to be killed by a person without a mental
illness(MI) than with MI.
- A non-family member victim
is 36 times more likely to be killed by a person
without MI than with MI.
- In every category, a defendant
was more likely to be using alcohol than to
have a mental illness; overall, 15 times more likely. - In every category, a
defendant was more likely to be unemployed than to have a mental illness;
overall, 8 times more likely.
*If Dr. E. Fuller Torrey is correct
that medication decreases violence, than
the 4.3% figure should be even lower today, due to improvements in medications
in the last eleven years.
* It's important to keep the
proper perspective when interpreting these charts.
E.g., the 25.1% of parents killed by persons with a mental illness is 25.1% of
the 1.9% of parent victims, i.e. less than one half of one percent of all
homicides. It's also important to remember that this survey used a definition
of mental illness that included at least 25% of the population.