(Received 24 February 1975; accepted 26 April 1975)
Published Online: January
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This paper describes a variety of homicide characterized by an element of reality in resorting to the killing of a parent. It deals with families marked by the presence of what I call catastrophic conflict. This term denotes a conflict which exceeds the adaptive capacity of an individual and can be resolved only by structural changes: a change in the structure of reality (divorce, truancy, homicide) or a change in the structure of the subject (psychosis or suicide). The reactive parricide is a last-resort effort to protect the psychic integrity of the perpetrator threatened with psychic disintegration due to catastrophic conflict. Killing of the parent responsible for catastrophic conflict leads to resolution of this tragic dilemma.
Clinical associate professor of psychiatry and adjunct associate professor of law, Wayne State University, Detroit, Mich.
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