The newspaper accounts of 59 cases contained enough information for the researchers to classify family annihilators into four types of men: what they called self-righteous, anomic, paranoid and disappointed.
The “self-righteous” men were those who defined themselves as breadwinners and were devastated by losing that identity, often after breaking up with their spouse. After a family split, the researchers believe some decide to exact revenge through murder, blaming their actions on ex-partners who they see as responsible for the change. “The self righteous family annihilator … engages in a dramatic performance of his domineering, masculine identity,” they write, providing the example of a man who picked up his kids on Father’s Day, filled the car with deadly amounts carbon monoxide and tried to trick his wife into setting off an explosive device.
“Disappointed” fathers like Riaz felt that the family had let them down, dashing their expectations and destroying whatever he desired from the familial relationships. The word anomic describes a state in which social norms are absent; those subjects viewed their families as economic indicators or a means of displaying economic success. And if the father failed financially, the researchers say, “the family becomes obsolete,” as in the case of a millionaire who killed his family after falling millions of dollars into debt. The “paranoid” father likely has mental health issues and believes that there is some external threat to the family; he might, for instance, be willing to kill his children because he so feared losing them in a custody battle with his ex-wife.