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Routine Infanticide by Married Couples? An Assessment of Baptismal Records from Seventeenth Century Parma

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Abstract This study uses baptismal records from the Italian city of Parma from 1609 to 1637 to chart the sex ratio of male and female infants at baptism. This article measures the Parman sex ratio against the natural sex ratio at birth for live-born infants, as determined by Praven Visaria, and offers preliminary findings that indicate that married couples used infanticide as a means of controlling family size and sex in seventeenth-century Parma. The 28 years studied encompass both relatively strong economic and agricultural years as well as a variety of crises. By selecting a period with both good and bad economic years it is possible to see if parents behaved differently as their household conditions varied. Further, dividing the approximately 30,000 baptisms by rural and urban jurisdictions and familial socio-economic status makes visible parental recourse to infanticide through unnatural ratios of males and females within different segments of society.

Affiliations: 1: Halifax Canada


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