Infanticide is not unique to humans. It is practiced by many mammals including some primates. The main difference between human and animal infanticide is that infanticide in humans is performed by the parent(s) of the child while in the case of animals it is usually a male suitor (Caldwell and Caldwell, 2005, p. 208). In pre-modern societies infanticide was done instead of abortions as it allowed for sexual selection, it was much more effective than pre-modern contraception, and it did not require any special skills or esoteric knowledge (Caldwell and Caldwell,2005, p. 205). Infanticide has a history as a method of population control. It is more frequent to throw away girl babies. This may be because of dowries or other cultural reasons. Infanticide seems to occur primarily when it aids one parent, both parents or additional children to survive better or if when the infant has little chance of survival.
Infanticide is a way to alter the reproductive stream before the child has the status of a real person, which is culturally defined (source). The deaths of weak, illegitimate, excess, deformed and unwanted infants are not defined as murder when the infants have not yet been born into the social world. Infanticide occurs cross-culturally for a multitude of causes. The reasons for infanticide can be summed up into three categories: biological (including the health of the child and twin stigmas), economical (relation to other children, women's workload, and available resources) and cultural (preferred gender, illegitimate children). This essay will examine cross-culturally the biological, economic and cultural factors for infanticide.
Biological reasons for infanticide are prevalent especially in countries that lack full medical or prenatal care. Prenatal care often identifies birth defect in-utero while giving the parents the option of abortion. Pre-modern societies also used infanticide to deal with children with defects, or those who were not expected to survive. In India (and many other cultures) infants that have deformities or twinships are often killed for the well being of the family (C. de Hilari et al, 2009, p. 353). Mothers are the most likely to commit infanticide when the child is "defective" as their potential for reproduction is lessened and therefore allocating resources to children who have more potential to reproduce may make more evolutionary sense (Friedman et al, 2012, p. 591). Children born with birth defects are often killed very quickly after birth. These defects may include cleft palates, additional appendages, or other visible defects. Often the killing of these infants is considered obligatory (C. de Hilari et al, 2009, p. 356). These children are seen to be an omen and must be killed immediately or the family will face a severe consequence such as a natural disaster or family death (C. de hilari et al, 2009, p. 356).
A common reason for infanticide cross-culturally is because the infant is a twin. It is most likely...