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Thread: Moms killing kids not nearly as rare as we think

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    Default Moms killing kids not nearly as rare as we think

    Moms killing kids not nearly as rare as we think - Yahoo! News


    FILE - In this Thursday, April 14, 2011 file photo, people attend a vigil at the boat ramp where Lashanda Armstrong drove her minivan into the Hudson River on Tuesday night killing herself and three of her children, in Newburgh, N.Y. Mothers kill their children in this country much more often than most people would realize by simply reading the headlines; by conservative estimates it happens every few days, at least 100 times a year. Experts say more mothers kill their children under 5 years of age than fathers. And, some say, our reluctance as a society to believe mothers would be capable of killing their offspring is hindering our ability to recognize warning signs, intervene and prevent more tragedies

    NEW YORK "How could she?"

    It's the headline du jour whenever a horrific case emerges of a mother killing her kids, as Lashanda Armstrong did when she piled her children into her minivan and drove straight into the frigid Hudson River.

    Our shock at such stories is, of course, understandable: They seem to go against everything we intuitively feel about the mother-child bond.
    But mothers kill their children in this country much more often than most people would realize by simply reading the headlines; by conservative estimates it happens every few days, at least 100 times a year. Experts say more mothers than fathers kill their children under 5 years of age. And some say our reluctance as a society to believe mothers would be capable of killing their offspring is hindering our ability to recognize warning signs, intervene and prevent more tragedies.

    And so the problem remains.

    "We've learned how to reduce auto fatalities among kids, through seatbelt use. We've learned how to stop kids from strangling on the strings of their hoodies. But with this phenomenon, we struggle," says Jill Korbin, an anthropologist at Case Western Reserve University who has studied mothers who kill children. "The solution is not so readily apparent."

    How common is filicide, or killing one's child, among mothers? Finding accurate records is nearly impossible, experts say. One problem is classification: The legal disposition of these cases varies enormously. Also, many cases doubtless go unreported or undetected, such as very young mothers who kill their newborns by smothering them or drowning them in a toilet after hiding the entire pregnancy.

    "I'd say a mother kills a child in this country once every three days, and that's a low estimate," says Cheryl Meyer, co-author of "Mothers Who Kill Their Children."

    Several databases track such killings but do not separate mothers from fathers or stepfathers. At the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System reported an estimated 1,740 child fatalities meaning when a child dies from an injury caused by abuse or neglect in 2008.

    And according to numbers compiled from 16 states by the National Violent Death Reporting System at the CDC Injury Center, 130 children were killed in those states by a parent in 2008, the last year for which numbers were available.

    "The horrific stories make the headlines, so we believe it hardly ever happens," says Meyer, a professor of psychology at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. "But it's not a rare thing."
    Meyer and co-author Michelle Oberman interviewed women at the Ohio Reformatory for Women. They found that of 1,800 women at the prison, 80 were there for killing their children.

    It's also a phenomenon that defies neat patterns: It cuts across boundaries of class, race and socio-economic status. Oberman and Meyer came up with five categories: filicide related to an ignored pregnancy; abuse-related; neglect-related; assisted or coerced filicide (such as when a partner forces the killing); and purposeful filicide with the mother acting alone.
    Different as these cases are, though, there are some factors that link the poor teen mother who kills her baby in a bathroom with an older, wealthier mother, and one of them, experts say, is isolation.

    "These women almost always feel alone, with a total lack of emotional support," says Lita Linzer Schwartz, a professor emeritus of psychology and women's studies at Penn State, and co-author of "Endangered Children."
    Schwartz says women are often not checked for mental illness after their crimes, and that is unfortunate.

    "Women need better treatment not only before, but after," she says. "They get tormented in prison, when often what they need is psychological care."
    The issue of mental illness is a tricky one. Some women are obviously seriously ill for example, Andrea Yates, who drowned her five children, one by one, in the bath in 2001, believing she was saving them from the devil. After first being convicted of capital murder, she was found innocent by reason of insanity and remains in a mental institution.

    But Oberman, a law professor at Santa Clara University, says cases are not always so obvious sometimes depression is enough to send a woman over the edge. "Almost all these women are not in their right minds (when they commit these acts)," she says. "The debate is whether they're sick enough to be called insane."

    Besides isolation, another frequent similarity in the cases is a split with the father of the children. "So often there is an impending death or divorce or breakup," Meyer says.

    In the case of Armstrong, the 25-year-old mother had apparently argued with the father of three of her young children about his cheating, according to the woman's surviving son just before driving into the river on Tuesday in Newburgh, N.Y. (Her 10-year-old son climbed out a window and survived. Three children, ages 11 months to 5 years, died.)

    This was one of those cases where the mother was committing suicide and decided to take the kids with her. To rational observers, there is nothing more perverse. But in the logic of many these mothers, experts say, they are protecting their children by taking them along. Armstrong's surviving son told a woman who helped him that his mother had told the kids: "If I'm going to die, you're all going to die with me."

    Experts have heard that many times before.

    "We see cases where the mother thinks the child would be better off in heaven than on this miserable earth," for example with an abusive father, says Schwartz. "They think it's a good deed, a blessing."

    A good deed performed by a good mother. "It's how the sick mother sees herself being a good mother," says Oberman. "Once she decides she can't bear the pain anymore, she thinks, `what would a good mother do?'"
    Korbin, the anthropologist, says in prison interviews she conducted, some women who had killed their children were still certain they were good mothers. And it's that very ideal of being a "good mother" that is holding our society back from taking preventive action or intervening in a potentially abusive situation before it's too late, Korbin says.

    "Often the people around these women will minimize a troubling instance that they see, saying, `Well, she's a good mother.' We err on the side of being supportive of women as being good mothers, where we should be taking seriously any instance where a mother OR father seems to be having trouble parenting. ANY instance of child maltreatment is serious."
    In fact, Armstrong's aunt told reporters that her niece "was a good mother. She was going through some stuff."

    Meyer, for one, is angry that the people around Armstrong didn't take heed of the warning signs earlier.

    "To me this is a textbook case," she says. "This woman was completely overwhelmed. Almost always, you can find people who say, `I knew something was wrong.' This did not come out of the blue. I say shame on the people who saw signs and didn't do anything. This is your responsibility, too."
    Not that it is easy to know when and how to raise an alarm bell. "I think often people just don't know what to do," says Korbin.

    But, she adds, it doesn't help to gape at a few of the more shocking cases and then move on, without recognizing the scope of the problem and the factors that link many of these cases.

    "People focus on the spectacular cases and they are spectacular," she says. "But that means another few kids will die over the next few days without much notice, and that is very sad."

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    Hit By Ban Bus! AliceInWonderland's Avatar
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    ........

    used, abused and tossed about like garbage, yeah its hard to be a woman sometimes

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    Elite Member january's Avatar
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    There is still a common misconception (usually shared by women) that other women aren't capable of willfully hurting a child. I don't know if these are the same women who watch the Lifetime network and think that men are evil and women are rock-solid beacons of love, or if they are reflecting off their own experiences of love with their children. They obviously don't believe that women can have the same sociopathic tendencies as men. I was watching a special on Casey Anthony and almost all the women who were on a "special jury" investigation said that they would never vote for first degree murder because it just must have been an accident. They believe her to be criminally responsible, but they couldn't fathom that a woman would intentionally kill her own child. These are the same people we are potentially pulling for the jury pool. Now, I'm not making a statement on Anthony's guilt one way or the other because I think it's irrelevant - I just think it's fascinating that the majority of other women think she couldn't have committed the crime with malice aforethought, that it had to have been accidental. Why? It really is a curious phenomenon.
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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    ^^^
    because for centuries now women have been told they have a maternal instinct and that they're biologically driven to love and protect their children and that to harm them in any way goes against nature.

    there is a really interesting book by a french philosopher and sociologist, elisabeth badinter, where she claims that the so-called 'maternal instinct' isn't biological at all but rather a social and historical construct dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries and that maternal love isn't as unconditional as women are told it is (and made to feel guilty if they don't conform to the stereotype of the mother who sacrifices her entire being to her children). rather, she states that like all human emotions, maternal love is uncertain and fragile and not all that different from other emotional bonds.
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    People who don't have kids, very often seem to dismiss the "maternal or paternal bond" with kids and try to make it no different than other emotional bonds. A handful of nutjobs who kill their kids doesn't set the bar for the rest of parents, quite obviously people have issues with raising kids that can be the result of poverty or poor choices in life. But there does seem to be a very different emotional bond between a healthy parent and child than other emotional relationships.

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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    no one is saying there's no bond, simply that it is not as absolute and 'natural' as we've been led to believe and hence, mothers killing their children isn't as rare as we think it is.
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    Elite Member greysfang's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by estonia View Post
    People who don't have kids, very often seem to dismiss the "maternal or paternal bond" with kids and try to make it no different than other emotional bonds. A handful of nutjobs who kill their kids doesn't set the bar for the rest of parents, quite obviously people have issues with raising kids that can be the result of poverty or poor choices in life. But there does seem to be a very different emotional bond between a healthy parent and child than other emotional relationships.

    Explain this, because most of the women killing children that have been reported on the news are middle-class or better.
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    What it says, there can be reasons for mothers to be frustrated with kids to the point that they might even resent them, but this seems to have more to due with financial issues and life choices. Not the way they feel about their child.

    Women who kill their kids are nutjobs. I wouldn't even bring them into a discussion about maternal instincts because obviously there's a lot more going on in that situation that has nothing to do with "maternal instincts." The mother in the other thread shot her child twice in the head and then drove home and shot her daughter in the face. She's crazy.

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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    reading comprehension and complex thought aren't your strong suits, i see.
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    I disagree with the article. Patsy Ramsey was blamed for the death of Jon Benet, Madeline McCaan's mother was treated scathingly in the press. In both situations the fathers were there yet the public seemed to believe the mothers did it. With missing child reports mothers are often looked at in a guilty way. Look at Kyron Hormon's case. The idea that people can't accept that mothers can kill their kids just doesn't seem true. When a kid is missing seems like the first person people look at is the mother, not the father, but the mother or stepmother. And even that archetype has gone back centuries with the "evil stepmother" trying to get rid of the children, ala Hansel and Gretel.

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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by estonia View Post
    What it says, there can be reasons for mothers to be frustrated with kids to the point that they might even resent them, but this seems to have more to due with financial issues and life choices. Not the way they feel about their child.

    It has more to do with mental illness than financial issues.
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    Quote Originally Posted by witchcurlgirl View Post
    It has more to do with mental illness than financial issues.

    I agree. I'm trying to separate between a nutjob that kills her kid and a stressed out mom who may abuse her kid.

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    Women who abuse their children are mentally ill as well.

    What is your point? That moms abuse their kids because they're poor? Hate to break it to you hon, but abuse goes on at all socio-economic levels.
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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    not all of them are mentally ill though. some women abuse their children because they don't love them and shouldn't have had kids in the first place and are basically shitty people. it happens. with both sexes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by witchcurlgirl View Post
    Women who abuse their children are mentally ill as well.

    What is your point? That moms abuse their kids because they're poor? Hate to break it to you hon, but abuse goes on at all socio-economic levels.
    No kidding, that's why I said poverty and life choices. Poverty is one reason a mother could be stressed, so are life choices like having them when they didn't want them in the first place, or being so focused on money that you totally ignore your kids ala any of the Real Housewives shows. There are many reasons a mother can be a shitty mother. However that's not anywhere near the same as actually murdering your kid. When women do that they are clearly bonkers. Therefor using mothers who murder their kids as a litmus test for maternal instinct is strange.

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