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date: 03 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

The clinical literature on human filicide and child maltreatment lacks a comprehensive explanation both for perpetration and its effects. In this chapter, we outline how evolutionary, selectionist thinking can help make sense of the data on the perpetrators of child maltreatment and filicide, and potentially also help make sense of the effects of maltreatment on its victims. At the proximate level, filicide and child maltreatment seem pathological or inexplicable by natural causes. At the ultimate level, however, we explore how things that seem deviant, disturbed, and even self-destructive can be understood as adaptive or as side effects of adaptations. In addition to leading to scientific hypotheses that can further our theoretical understanding, an evolutionary explanation might help efforts to assess the risk of these troubling behaviors, prevent them, and remedy the effects.

Keywords: filicide, infanticide, child homicide, child maltreatment, child abuse, stepparents, parental investment, parental solicitude

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