Wife Killing: Risk to Women as a Function of Age

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Younger women, relative to older women, incur elevated risk of uxoricide—being murdered by their husbands. Some evolutionary theorists attribute this pattern to men's evolved sexual proprietariness, which inclines them to use violence to control women, especially those high in reproductive value. Other evolutionary theorists propose an evolved homicide module for wife killing. An alternative to both explanations is that young women experience elevated uxoricide risk as an incidental byproduct of marriage to younger men who commit the majority of acts of violence. We used a sample of 13,670 uxoricides to test these alternative explanations. Findings show that (a) reproductive-age women incur an elevated risk of uxoricide relative to older women; (b) younger men are overrepresented among uxoricide perpetrators; and (c) younger women, even when married to older men, still incur excess risk of uxoricide. Discussion examines competing explanations for uxoricide in light of these findings.

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