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Keep it in the family

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A general pattern in violence and homicide, acknowledged by authors from ancient Greece to the present day, is that the individual is most at risk from close family members. Fathers kill children (and sometimes their mothers); siblings may be the cause of tensions within a marriage. There is supposedly a natural tension between mothers-in-law and their daughters-in-law.

It is striking that husbands were rarely portrayed in this material killing their wives for having committed adultery, nor were wives shown killing their husbands. This latter motif was often found in Spanish classical literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but may have been too sensitive a subject for popular consumption in the nineteenth. English narratives suggested a strong motivation deriving from social conditions; violence within the family may be explained by attributing it to the stresses of poverty or the effects of alcohol.