Mothers murder their children for many reasons, which typically fall into one of three classes: accidental, purposeful, and abuse-related filicide. Research points to differences between maternal behavioral characteristics when committing neonaticide and filicide.
- neonaticide (children less than 24 hours old). Limited statistics exists for neonaticides, since many go unreported. The majority of the mothers are young and unmarried. Their self-image appears to be important and the homicides result to save face and social status.
- infanticide (children less than one year old) There is a clear distinction between mothers who commit neonaticide vs infanticide. Michelle Oberman, law professor/author suggests reviewing societal norms which may be causing undo stress to mothers or harm to children. Infanticide is not random and is not committed by only the mentally ill.
- filicide (children 18 years and younger). The U.S. statistics are the highest for infanticide followed by pre-school and school-age children. 30%-45% percent of parents committing filicide commit suicide.
The following are 5 recurring motives for maternal filicide based on Phillip Resnick’s worldwide review of psychiatric research: (Altruistic)-These mothers feel they are protecting their children from worse harm. (Psychotic)-Psychotic or delirious mothers have no motive other than reacting to hallucinations. (Fatal maltreatment)-These mothers’ intentions are usually not homicide, but residual effects of years of abuse and neglect or Munchausen syndrome by proxy are often culprits. (Unwanted child)-The child is seen as a hindrance or burden. Lastly, (Spouse revenge)-Although rare, the mother kills the child to torture the child’s father or seek revenge.
The following podcast was taped by death investigator Darren Dake of Coroner Talk™ with myself, discussing the psychology of mom’s who kill.