Why Ladies Kill

I’m in the midst of a fascinating discussion on creating a believable female antagonist using Sean Mactire’s book Malicious Intent: A Writer’s Guide to How Murderers, Robbers, Rapists, and Other Criminal Think. Today I want to discuss why females kill their prey.


 (Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Why do women kill? Here are the Top 11 reasons:

1. Money
2. Enjoyment
3. Revenge
4. Sex (minor motive)
5. Perverted acts (minor motive)
6. Drugs
7. Cult/terrorist involvement
8. Cover up other crimes
9. Children a burden
10. Inadequacy as a parent
11. Combination of the above

The list is similar to the male motives. Here’s something to tickle your funny bone: for centuries, THESE were thought to be the Top 5 reasons women killed:

1. Possessed by Satan or other demons
2. Hormonal changes
3. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
4. Female problems other than PMS
5. Maternity

I’ll give you a moment to get your laughter under control… 

Mactire reminds his readers that females suffer from the same psychological disorders as males do, but psychotic women are more apt to seek treatment than psychotic men (stop laughing) so psychotic women are less likely to reach a dangerous level of psychosis. “However, some women are too proud or too stubborn or too bound to social constraints to seek help for mental problems. This would explain why so many female killers come from middle-class and upper-class backgrounds.” (Note from me:  Is he saying that low-income psychotic women go for treatment more often than middle- or upper-income women? That doesn’t make a ton of sense in my book, but I’ll share it with ya’ll, anyway.) 

Continuing, Mactire says, “Psychosis is found in the majority of cases of women who kill their children or other children. Ironically, many of these cases could have been prevented because almost half of the women had told others, prior to the murders, that they feared they would kill. They reported this to friends, family, physicians, police, and social service agencies. But because of the social blindness to the idea of women killing, these “pleas for help” were ignored.” Wow. That’d be an interesting twist to put in a novel. Although I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a way to make all these people believable when they ignore the “I want to kill my kids” statements. Maybe you can think of some way to make it work, though.

In my next post I’ll discuss a few other characteristics of female killers. I know I already covered that, but Mactire adds a second list in the chapter that bears repeating.


One response to “Why Ladies Kill”

  1. Sonja Hutchinson Avatar
    Sonja Hutchinson

    Your theory makes sense to me. Sad, but believable.

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