'Killing the beloved’: psychosocial factors precipitating spousal homicide in Nigeria

  • Richard A. Aborisade
  • Abimbola R. Shontan
Keywords: Abuse, Domestic violence, Offenders, Psychosocial factors, Spousal homicide


The prevalence of spousal homicide in Nigeria appears to have been on the increase in recent years, sparking criminological and public health concerns. Meanwhile, research on family violence has vigorously focused on spousal abuse, trends and prevalence of domestic violence, and risk factors, while the most severe of violence-the killing of a spouse, has not received an equal amount of attention. Leaning on eclectic adoption of social learning, resource, victim precipitation and traumatic bonding theories, this present study advanced knowledge in family violence by examining the psychological and sociological factors that played roles in pathways to spousal homicide. Qualitative analysis of official demographic and offence history data, and in-depth interviews of 18 purposively selected offenders of spousal homicide in celled housing units in Kirikiri Maximum, Kirikiri Female and Ikoyi Prisons reveal that childhood experience of violence and abuse is strongly connected with perception and perpetration of violence in marital life. The events leading to the death of spouses suggested that the killings were accidental rather than premeditated, however, the use of dangerous weapons were prevalent. There is a clear empirical evidence to suggest that qualitatively, men who kill their spouses do not differ greatly from those who use nonlethal violence. It is suggested that parents, religious leaders and significant others should be more attentive to situations between couples and base their interventions on the wellbeing of the couples rather than religious dictates and social desirability alone. It is essential that an understanding of spousal homicide is continuously pursued and that steps are taken to reduce the likelihood of spousal homicide—the final abuse.

Keywords: Abuse, Domestic violence, Offenders, Psychosocial factors, Spousal homicide


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eISSN: 1117-1421