Mothers give life but some also take it away. Most of us have a false mental image of mothers: playing with their babies, baking cookies, and wearing cute pink pajamas. On the other hand, we think of millennial moms as free and adorably wild.
The truth is that mothers are real human beings that often struggle to get enough sleep or devote some time to their own hobbies and interests. Exhaustion, never-ending chores, social pressure, and many other factors contribute to the emotional pain some mothers struggle with.
A lot of moms never get help because our society often stigmatizes people with mental issues. Thus, their problems worsen, and instead of giving love, mothers might become abusive, overprotective or dangerous to their kids.
Statistics show that only in the U.S., 200 women kill their children every year. We should mention an intriguing fact: a study showed that when mothers kill their kids, 68% are sent to mental hospitals and only 27% are sent to prison. In comparison, 72% of fathers who kill their kids go to prison.
So let’s explore 15 scary medical reasons why mothers kill their children.
15 Mom Is Battling Depression
Depression can cause some irreparable damage to the family as a whole. Studies show that depressed mothers have a lot of difficulties bonding with their children, and as a consequence, kids of depressed mothers show patterns of dysregulated attention and arousal and other behavioral problems.
Data reveals that depression is becoming a major social problem. In particular, pre and postnatal depression are on the rise. Postpartum mood disorders, including depression, anxiety, and psychosis affect many women. In fact, each year more than 950,000 moms are dealing with postpartum depression. Even mothers with a healthy baby and supporting family can become victims of depression. It’s interesting to mention that childbirth pain can lead to depressive moods.
Psychologists reveal that extreme depression can lead to maternal filicide. In fact, it’s one of the leading factors. Therefore, having proper postnatal health care, healthy lifestyle and social support after the baby is crucial. Last but not least, doctors should focus not only on babies but mothers, and people should understand that mothers are not to blame for their depression.
14 Mental Illnesses Like Schizophrenia
Just like depression, schizophrenia is a devastating mental disorder: the patient often struggles to understand what’s real and what’s not. Confusion, false beliefs, and behavioral problems are only some of the symptoms.
It’s important to mention that according to a Swedish study, children of schizophrenic mothers could develop mental health problems. In fact, 50% of American women who are suffering from schizophrenia are parents. Experts say that early intervention is crucial as it can prevent a chronic disability.
Note that some symptoms of schizophrenia can be confused with those of a bipolar disorder. A mother who struggled with a bipolar disorder was Brenda Dayton: she killed her two-year daughter, believing that there were snakes in her body and that her daughter was “the Devil’s baby.” Another mother, Christina Miracle killed her son in a ceremony she believed could resurrect her brother.
13 Extreme Paranoia
The link between schizophrenia and paranoia is the irrational world of the patients. Paranoia is characterized by extreme fear and can be present in many mental disorders, especially psychotic disorders.
In fact, a significant event, such as childbirth, and some dramatic social changes during parenthood can trigger paranoia. Many people fear for their kids, become overprotective or experience automatic negative thoughts that can easily transform in delusions.
Paranoid parents can be dangerous to their babies. As Barry Glassner says, “people perceive greater danger even while actual risks are declining.” There are many controversial topics that plant fear in people’s heads – vaccines, allergies, abductions. Sadly, some paranoid mothers can hurt or kill their own kids. For instance, Susan Smith said that a man abducted her kids when the truth was that she pushed her car into a lake and drowned her kids.
12 Physical Disability
Believe it or not, maternal filicide can be caused by a physical disability. We are not saying that physically challenged parents would hurt their kids intentionally. However, it might happen.
In fact, many women describe the unique experience of parenting while dealing with a physical disability: they need to make various child care adaptations at home and unfortunately, fight a lot of prejudices. It's interesting to mention that experts at the University of Toronto research birth and mothering experiences of physically disabled women.
As physical disabilities include various limitations on one’s physical functioning, visual impairments, epilepsy and even sleep disorders, mothers should be extremely careful.
11 Learning Disability
Often we forget about another important aspect of life – one’s cognitive functioning. Actually, learning disabilities are defined as neurologically-based processing problems. The range of learning disabilities is wide. From reading through memory problems to severe learning problems, people are unique.
It’s been proven that mothers with a learning disability are the most socially isolated parents. Creating a supportive network, experts claim, is crucial to prevent incidents and death.
Here we should explore another aspect of the problem: mothers who hurt their kids simply because they have a learning disability. Stephanie Rochester killed her son as she believed he had autism. Abuse exists. “Yet we continue to persist with the unrealistic view that this is rare behavior,” says Jill Korbin, an expert in the field.
10 Domestic Violence
Domestic violence, just like postpartum depression and psychosis, is among the leading causes of maternal filicide. Unfortunately, there are many dysfunctional families that even turn kids into criminals.
First of all, we should focus on the chain reaction in some families: some men abuse women, and as a consequence, some women hurt kids. On the other hand, domestic violence can cause a lot of emotional scars into anger and other negative emotions, some mothers may decide to end the life of their own children.
Last but not least, some severe forms of punishment can cause some long-term emotional scars and death. Therefore, when kids decide to open up, we should listen and report any warning signs of abuse.
9 Altruistic Reasons
As mentioned above, domestic violence can cause more violence. Some mothers who have been abused might kill their babies… in order to protect them.
That might sound irrational, but for some women that’s the only way to end the aggression that surrounds them. Altruistic filicide is a really curious act. Killing someone to prevent more suffering sounds scary. Note that sometimes it’s only an imaginary danger. Andrea Yates who drowned all five of her kids said that Satan told her to kill them to save them from Hell.
For instance, Raina Thaiday from Australia is notorious for killing her seven kids and a niece believing she was saving them. In her case, psychiatrists believe that it was actually her long-term cannabis abuse that triggered the psychotic episode and led to filicide. The sad truth is that in the end, mothers do love their kids.
8 Drug Abuse
As mentioned above, drug abuse can become a cause of maternal filicide. Drug abuse is painful not only for the addicted mother but her whole family. Drug abuse can lead to neglect and abuse. Often if treatment is sought, family therapy is needed.
Many laws across the U.S. address the issue of substance abuse. Although studies reveal the negative impact drugs have on children, illicit drugs and prescribed pills can be easily purchased, even online. Let’s not forget that some moms get addicted to drugs prescribed for their postnatal pains and problems. Drugs can cause paranoia and schizophrenia, which can lead to suicide. On top of that, parents might pass out, causing fatal accidents.
Last but not least, kids exposed to psychoactive substances might start using drugs. For instance, Susan Eubanks who killed four of her kids blamed her alcoholic parents for the tragedy.
7 Need For Revenge
So far we’ve talked about troubled and hurt individuals. However, many family problems can lead to fatal outcomes. The arrival of the baby is exciting, true. However, let’s admit it, parenthood can challenge each relationship. Parents might cheat or disappear. Many cry, shout, and lie.
A small family problem can become really traumatic for some individuals, and mothers can kill after a psychotic breakdown caused by jealousy, abandonment or revenge. The case of Robin Lee Row (Idaho’s only female Death Row inmate), who killed her husband, her 10-year-old son and her 8-year-old daughter, is only one of the many tragedies that could have been prevented.
As expert Jill Korbin says, “Prior to a homicide, lots of lay people know these men and women are having difficulty parenting. The public has to be better educated in recognizing how to intervene and how to support child abuse prevention.”
6 An Unwanted Child
Having an unwanted child is also among the most common reasons behind maternal filicide.
One of the terrifying forms of abuse is rape, and carrying a baby that’s a ‘result’ of sexual assault is even worse. In many countries, women are to blame, and there are unbelievable practices, such as stoning, in the case of adultery. Well, one of the cruel misogynist practices to punish a victim is to make her have an unwanted child.
Forced marriages, rape or illegal abortion, having a child that’s unwanted can cause a lot of emotional problems and can result in suicide. Although the topic of abortion is controversial and many religious, moral, philosophical and spiritual aspects are involved, women should have the right to decide what to do with their own bodies and future. Before we blame single mothers, we should also seek some responsibility from the fathers. The sad truth is that our world is not equal at all.
5 Sheer Survival
Although the distribution of wealth is not equal, we should admit that the Western world is lucky in many respects. Unfortunately, in many parts of the world, famine, low milk supply, and survival might become significant reasons for some mothers to kill their babies.
In fact, not only mothers kill in order to survive. Infanticide has been a popular practice in many countries where food wasn’t enough.
Maybe we all know about China and scary practices, such as female infanticide and family planning, for the purpose of population control. Maybe you remember the heartbreaking case of the little baby who was flushed down the toilet in China… and survived.
4 Over Fatigued
Fatigue is a serious physical and mental condition that’s expressed in the subjective feeling of constant tiredness, weakness, and apathy. It affects the motivation of the individual; often, it’s linked to depression.
In fact, fatigue affects all aspects of life, including work and income. A study showed that only a one-hour increase in the amount of sleep can help moms improve their employment prospects by 4%, which correlated to 11% rise in income.
It’s not only that, though. Sleep problems can result in risky behavior. Not surprisingly, that can lead to manslaughter or other accidents. Therefore, new regulations that don’t rush new parents to go back to work need to be implemented.
3 Partner In Crime
People believe that mothers love their babies. However, some people just don’t like being parents and prefer devoting their lives to their partners. On the other hand, other individuals can be easily persuaded (even when they love their own kids) and get involved in crime (including suicide). In other words, there are mothers out there who kill because of their partners.
In fact, it’s been documented that numerous serial killers have turned their partners into murderers.
Sadly enough, research shows that kids killed by their parents were abused prior to death. Thus, spotting the first signs of domestic violence and providing hotlines and safe homes can save lives.
2 Sadistic Sadism
Filicide is terrifying. Still, one of the most brutal forms of death is caused by torture murder. Sadism is known in psychiatry as the weird condition of gaining pleasure, mainly sexual, from causing pain.
Sadistic personality disorder is a medical term used to describe all individuals who enjoy hurting people. It’s interesting to mention that this disorder correlates with other illnesses, such as alcoholism.
Unfortunately, there are mothers who starve their kids, make them eat excrement, or lock them for hours and hours. Other parents might sexually abuse their own kids. There are also lunatics that keep their kids captive for years, just like the Austrian monster Josef Fritzl who kept his daughter Elisabeth locked for 24 years.
1 Involuntary Manslaughter
Many children lose their lives due to manslaughter. Manslaughter is a term used to describe any unintentional killing. Sadly, many children left or simply forgotten in cars have died from heat-related deaths.
In addition, far too many couples have starved their kids. Recently a lot of vegan couples have been sentenced for starving their kids. It’s really heartbreaking when parents project their lifestyle and beliefs on their little ones.
As Nancy Scheper-Huges, an expert in the field, says, “We should detach from the idea of universal motherhood as natural and see it as a social response.”
To sum up, mothers are human beings who also suffer from some scary conditions, conditions that might lead to filicide. However, one thing is common in the vast majority of cases: mothers who have killed their children experience some unbearable guilt.
Sources: LDAmerica.org, MentalHealthAmerica.net, PBS.org, PostPartumProgress.com, PrimaryPsychiatry.com, PsyCentral.com, PsychologyToday.com, TheGuardian.com, TheMothersProgram.ca, Thoughtco.com