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Parents who Kill – The Five Categories



Criminologists and psychologists highlight five main categories into which parents who kill their children may fall. These are as follows:


1) The parent is suffering from an ACUTE PSYCHOTIC CONDITION (‘psychosis’ is a state in which a person substantially loses touch with reality; this condition may take many forms).

2) The parent perceives the act as  ‘altruistic’ If the parent falls into this category, it essentially means that the parent believes, for whatever reason, that the child is ‘better off dead’ and therefore views killing the child as an act of ‘mercy’ and ‘compassion.’

Mothers are more likely to fall into this particular category than fathers.

3) REVENGE AGAINST THE OTHER PARENT. One motivation for this kind of terrible revenge include the discovery that the other parent has been sexually unfaithful or.

Another motivation may be that the other parent has won custody of the child in a bitter legal battle during a divorce.

Men are more likely to fall into this category than women. (Sometimes they may kill their children and then themselves. In such a scenario a male is about twenty times more likely to perpetrate the crime than a female).

4) The child is UNWANTED


Neglect may include medical neglect.

An example of recklessness may be drink-driving with the child in the car or beating a child in such a way that death is the accidental result (in UK this is legally termed manslaughter).

Sometimes, a parent who kills their child will fall into more than one of the above categories. An obvious example is that a parent may perceive his/her actions as ‘altruistic’ due to acute psychotic illness.



Further information on mothers who kill:

Frequently, mothers who kill are MENTALLY ILL. They may, for example, be suffering from severe post natal depression with psychotic features combined with the effects of immense stress caused by the never ending demands of the baby.

Such killings tend to be IMPULSIVE and younger mothers are more likely to perpetrate such an act than are more mature mothers.


Further information on fathers who kill:

A more usual motivation for a father to kill, however, is if some major catastrophe hits him ; losing his job and income, for example, leaving him no longer able to support his family financially. Because men often pride themselves on providing for their family and doing so gives them a sense of identity, self-respect and self-esteem, if this role is taken away from them, it has been known to lead them, in exceptionally rare cases, to murder their entire family and then commit suicide, believing this to be in everyone’s ‘best interest’.


Young Children :

Young children are at greater risk of being killed by their parents than older children. This is because they are more defenceless, cause parents greater stress (eg constant demands of a crying baby), and there has been less time for a strong parent-child bond to develop.


David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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