It is difficult to comprehend just how a parent makes the decision to kill their child. Some people might say the parent or parents are crazy, and in some cases this is true. But not all parents who murder their kids have a mental illness. In fact sometimes it’s not even clear why the parent took the life of his or her child. However, it is important to answer these questions and carry out these studies in order to try and prevent this terrible crime.
Dr. Phillip Resnick is a Professor of psychiatry. Resnick has been working on this very topic for the last forty years. He evaluates parents who have been accused of killing their children and has conducted a seminal study on filicide in which he identified five types of the crime.
Resnick reports that in the United States, one in every thirty-three murders is a case of filicide; the murder of a child by his or her parents. Studies have shown that between 250 and 300 murders in the United States are cases of filicide. Filicide has been found to be the third-leading cause of death when it comes to homicide.
There are five main reasons or categories for filicide. The first reason is known as “altruisitic” The parent has made the decision to take their own life, and for whatever reason, they believe that their child or children would be better off in heaven with them. It could be a single parent who has no family to step up should the parents lose their life.
The second category is where the parent is extremely psychotic. The definition of psychotic varies. However, usually the psychotic person is delusional and they have absolutely no idea what they are doing, why they have done something or even a recollection of having committed a crime.
The third category is a that of fatal battering. The parent may have beaten the child with absolutely no intention of killing them and went too far, injuries sustained essentially killing their child. To use an example, the parent might have pushed the child into wall in anger and the child could have fallen and hit their head.
Number four is when a parent decides to get rid of an unwanted baby. It’s not really clear how common this type of filicide is in the United States. However, this does happen in developing countries where the child might have been born out of wedlock or due to a woman being raped.
Last of all is spousal revenge. This can come in many forms. However, the most common is in the case of custody disputes. One parent loses access to children and will often murder the children to take revenge on the other spouse. The parent often takes their own life too.
There are other reasons that parents choose to murder their children; however they don’t necessarily fit into the above five categories.
According to some psychologists it is believed that depression and domestic violence can trigger a parent to murder his or her child, and in the case of domestic abuse it is more likely to be the wife. Professor Browne, the director of Nottingham University’s Centre for Forensic and Family Psychology, has reported that there have been incidences where the husband beats the wife and the wife beats the children. In very rare cases, a spouse who is physically abused may take the hatred for their violent spouse out on their child and ultimately go too far and kill their child.
Browne also states that depression can be a reason for a parent to murder his or her child. However, depression does not fit in with the five main categories as it is more likely that someone who is depressed will neglect their child. A person is also less likely to be violent if they are depressed.
In another case there are parents who choose to murder simply because of their preference for a son instead of a daughter. In countries with a one child policy, such as China, this is something that happens.
According to an article in the Star Tribune, when it comes to family homicide, parents murdering their children comes very close to spouses murdering spouses. This is based on a report from the U.S. Bureau of Justice statistics from 1976 to 2005.
Another article on PsychCentral claimed that there were cases of parents afflicted with Schizophrenia that murdered their children. These researchers also found that 20 percent of parents who had committed filicide had been in contact with some kind of mental health service.
So there are many different reasons by parents commit these terrible crimes against their children and these are not excuses as some critics may try to point out. Many murdering parents are judged as monsters and it’s not surprising that this happens as, for many people, murdering a child is unthinkable.
It is important for psychiatrists, psychologists and scientists to carry out this important work. The more that is learned and discovered from the research being carried by these professionals, the more likely it is that the amount of child murders can be reduced. This means dealing with all mental health issues in the best way possible by making sure people with mental illness are getting the correct counseling and therapies that they need. However, given that mental health is one area of health that falls through the cracks, it is very likely that this won’t happen and may mean that these awful crimes may even increase.