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Mothers who kill their children : a literature review

Davies, Leisha (2008-12)

Thesis (MA (Psychology))--Stellenbosch University, 2008.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Maternal filicide, the murder of a child by its mother, is a complex phenomenon with various causes and characteristics. Research, by means of the development of several classification systems and in identifying particular risk factors, has been conducted with the aim of better prevention of this emotionally evocative crime. Various disciplines have offered a wide range of perspectives on why women kill their biological children. These are intended to yield a better understanding of the aetiology of this crime. This literature review delineates three dominant perspectives: psychiatric, psychological, and sociological. The main findings of each perspective are discussed. However, these three perspectives frequently operate in conjunction with each other in that both intrapsychic and interpersonal dynamics play a role in acts of maternal filicide. The most vulnerable women appear to be those who have had a severely deficient developmental history (trauma and/or grossly inadequate parenting), those who experience current difficult psychosocial circumstances, and those who have been diagnosed with a psychiatric illness. However, not all women who experience such problems kill their children. In this regard, individual differences have an important role to play and more carefully delineated future research is suggested. One of the most significant findings of this literature review is that there appears to be a paucity of systematic research on the South African phenomenon of parental child homicide.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Moedermoord, die moord van ’n kind deur sy of haar moeder, is ’n komplekse verskynsel met verskeie oorsake en karaktereienskappe. Navorsing deur die ontwikkeling van verskeie klassifikasiestelsels en die identifisering van spesifieke risikofaktore is uitgevoer met die doel om hierdie misdaad, wat soveel emosies ontlok, beter te voorkom. Verskeie dissiplines bied ’n wye verskeidenheid perspektiewe oor die redes waarom vroue hul biologiese kinders vermoor. Die doel van hierdie perspektiewe is om ’n beter etiologiese begrip van hierdie vorm van misdaad te verkry. Die literatuurstudie dui drie dominante perspektiewe aan: psigiatries, psigologies en sosiologies. Die hoofbevindinge van elke perspektief word bespreek. Hierdie drie perspektiewe werk dikwels saam aangesien sowel intrapsigiese en interpersoonlike dinamiek ’n rol in moedermoorddade speel. Die kwesbaarste vroue blyk dié te wees met ’n ernstig gebrekkige ontwikkelingsgeskiedenis (trauma en/of ernstig onvoldoende ouerskap), diegene wat hulle in moeilike psigososiale omstandighede bevind, en dié wat met ’n psigiatriese siekte gediagnoseer is. Nie alle vroue wat hierdie probleme ervaar, vermoor egter hulle kinders nie. In hierdie opsig speel individuele verskille ’n belangrike rol en word versigtig afgebakende toekomstige navorsing voorgestel. Een van die belangrikste bevindinge van hierdie literatuuroorsig is dat daar ’n gebrek aan sistematiese navorsing oor die Suid-Afrikaanse verskynsel van kindermoord deur ouers blyk te wees.

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