Is it legal for a parent to make a death threat to their child verbally, to "keep them in line"? Is a parent threatening a child with death an exception, if they said it was "from love and my instincts I know them -- I needed to help them think"?

Is that just a verbal abuse problem for a psychologist to deal with, or does the law cope with the parent-child verbal abuse/death threat issue specifically? From reading about the law, it seems parents get exceptions to be using/abusing that language.

I'm asking about a Death threat as defined officially by US law, but global examples are welcome too.

  • what constitutes a threat depends on the jurisdiction. If it is punishable depends on the jurisdiction. Is this asking about the law in Somalia or the US? In China or in Brasil?
    – Trish
    Dec 19, 2020 at 2:01
  • @Trish I understand what you mean by jurisdiction there, put there like that it makes sense. I would appreciate the international opinion as much as USA local information, is it okay if I specify "International Laws" and "United States Law" for perspective? If the greater mod opinion is that my being localized and specific to myself is better I understand, but I was actually trying to be somewhat "general legal knowledge" in asking for responses, again for perspective, if that makes sense/is reasonable?. Dec 19, 2020 at 2:05
  • NO. There s no such thing as an international opinion or general legal knowledge for things that are so extremely different depending on their jurisdiction such as Child Protection laws, Parental Rights and corporal punishment. Example: Florida explicitly allows corporal punishment in schools by teachers - New York (and 128 countries) doesn't. India bars corporal punishment and mental harassment by parents (and school) in any form, but its neighbor Pakistan allows parents to beat their children up to a certain degree. Afganistan has a right of the father to beat their sons...
    – Trish
    Dec 19, 2020 at 2:20
  • @Trish I mean, am I able to ask for answers for all those perspectives of the question, while not minding specifying my own jurisdition specifically as the inspiration? (I would appreciate all the answers you gave, while surely I appreciate US knowledge for myself that would be most valid, I still would like to read (what I mean by "for perspective") how other jurisdictions behave.) Dec 19, 2020 at 2:23
  • That'd be way too broad. There are 198 countries. The US alone adds 50 states, for 248 different law canons. Add Church law for about a dozen Christian religions, Sharia, some three dozen no longer existing countries that left us legal codes, and we are at over 300 legal codes that make all positions allowable.
    – Trish
    Dec 19, 2020 at 2:27

2 Answers 2


It's simply not expected given how much reverence the parent-child relationship is held in.

Likewise we do not expect people to eat one another. This is why a case of cannibalism, about a decade ago in Germany, was not illegal despite the moral horror it evoked. It simply wasn't expected and so no ruling had been laid down. It reveals an aporia in the law, but not one in the moral climate.

However, I would add, that given the amount of domestic child abuse that has been exposed over the last century there is legislation against that. I would expect a 'parent' giving explicit and deliberate 'death threats' to a child in their care to be dealt with in line with this legislation. Even if they issue their threats in a veiled and coded form,

I've put the term 'parent' in quotes above. Because although they may be biologically the child's parent, such threats remove them from being considered a parent, as in the sense of being the primary care-giver.

  • @feetweet: Please do not roll-back the edit. The OP in comments that have been since deleted said 'I liked' the question. The edit was to state quite firmly that I do not. Dec 19, 2020 at 2:44
  • Please migrate (all) the comments to a room again, for when I was talking at law.stackexchange.com/posts/58451/timeline / web.archive.org/web/20201219011716/https://… (Was before being InstaVoteBrigaded-7day-interrupt for having said conversation in the open in public. I've had mods attack my credentials for ten comments straight but a user who answered my question, asking the same personal/general questions, got us in trouble? I was specifically talking about what I wrote.). Dec 30, 2020 at 8:38
  • For the record, I +15 pointed you & "Accepted_Answer" arrow buttoned, and even though I replied to you second because the other user has seniority & I tend to defer, I actually liked your answer most. {What I meant by saying Like was with a Disclaimer definitely law.stackexchange.com/revisions/58449/3 edited thanks to you. And by thanks I do not mean I enjoy talking about Parent=>Child Abuse Laws. If only such scrutiny were allowed in the eyes of the law for describing Verbal Abuse - if only to an equal extent as we tend to discuss mod/tone policing laws here - that would be maturity.} Jan 2, 2021 at 1:57

“I’m going to kill you” is not a threat

Or at least, not necessarily.

A criminal threat is more than words - it must encompass the intent to carry out the threat. Except in wholly exceptional circumstances, this type of language between parent and child is not a threat.

  • Thank you, I am replying to you first bc of your seniority, I am scared to address the other answerer with only 264 rep, for my own safety.* "Necessarily" is the keyword/operative word there? So should I specify my families' profilable/classifiable cultural/religious values (words/values some police would use to describe motive/intent in deeper cases. Except 4 P=>C, I guess is my inquiry?), & how in the past (if precedent?) ppl in my culture (& other cult behaviorally) "honor kill" coded "the intent to carry out the threat"? (Or is that just transgeneration trauma & not transgenerational law?) Dec 18, 2020 at 23:44

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