Social Question

partyrock's avatar

Why do some women hate their children enough to hurt them?

Asked by partyrock (3865 points ) May 16th, 2012

I know this is a very sensitive topic, and don’t mean to offend anyone with this question because it is so sensitive, but there has been this viral video out of a Malaysian woman beating her child and it made me wonder this. Given, of course, that it is not only women who can abuse their offspring (men as well), but I’m just wondering what it could be? That seems prevalent for a small amount of mother’s to hurt their children. Could it come from postpartum depression? Or some type of angst the women had before they got pregnant? I also remember another video that got out years ago with a woman named Madelyne Gorman Toogood who was caught on camera beating her daughter. Or the Caylee Anthony case. And other things like women murdering their children, or drowning their children,etc. Why their own kids? Is it some deeper psychological thing?

I’m in no way implying that only women are known for this, and I know it’s hard to talk about, just wondering.

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20 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

Probably a psychological defect, similar to whatever causes people to become criminals.

janbb's avatar

I think it arises more of out self-hatred, desperation or madness.

zenvelo's avatar

Some people get overwhelmed by their situation, and know no other way of expressing their frustration. They are angry about their circumstances and express the anger physically.

It really isn’t all that rare, we hear of it all the time. Just the short list you gave shows it happens frequently.

SuperMouse's avatar

I don’t think child abuse of any kind necessarily comes as much from hatred for the child as much as the parents’ own mental health issues. It could be from postpartum depression, generalized depression or other mental illness, an inability to cope with the stress of parenthood, alcoholism, or some other issue. There are many, many parents out there who do not have the tools in their parenting toolboxes for dealing with an unruly child and nowadays even though it “takes a village”, many parents don’t have a support system to help out.

GladysMensch's avatar

Women, and men, hurt their children because they are sociopaths. Sociopaths have no empathy and often joy hurting others. Children are perfect victims. They have no power. They have no way to defend themselves. They have no way to escape. They have few (if any) outlets outside of their family. They have no options but to remain in the abusive situation, and are completely dependent upon the abuser.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@partyrock Hey lady. Life for us gets pretty overwhelming at times doesn’t it? Just taking care of our basic needs can be a lot. Throw in a little person that’s completely dependent on you for all of his/her needs, support, care, and expenses. Might be a little stress? And it’s frigging exhausting taking care of the child too. They go forever. I don’t have any kids. I wasn’t sure I was up to the standards to raise them well. But God bless any parents out there. It’s amazing you guys do it so well. I couldn’t watch the video. I hate anyone that abuses anyone. But life isn’t a piece of cake. If you ever think of striking something, think of that.

chyna's avatar

Good question. I wish I knew the answer and how to stop it.

JLeslie's avatar

Below are some of my theories:

Probably it has a lot to do with frustration and not being able to cope. Mom’s many times are exhausted, throw in a little too much of children who won’t shut up nor behave, and it causes some women to snap. Especially if culturally they find it completely acceptable, or even encouraged, to use corporal punishment. I have people all around me who think hitting and paddeling are a good thing, and that without it a child is likely to grow up to be disrespectful and hoodlums.

Moms who just kill their kids and continue on like they never existed are really missing something, they definitely are missing some cylinders. I think maybe they feel trapped and ashamed. If they admit they don’t want their children, don’t want to deal with them, they are shamed in their families and society. It is unnacceptable for a mother to not love and want her children, and so they try to do something that will be acceptable, so they can do what they want. Like having to mourn their child’s death or dissapearance at the hands of a crazy person. The whole world will then be sympathetic to the mom.

Mom’s who are suicidal and who really have become really unstable, or feal no way out, and that there is no help available to them, talk about killing their kids when they kill themselves, because the children are dependent. Almost every mom I know biggest fear is if something happens to them what will happen their children, who will care for them, how will her kids cope? Be affected by her death. The suicidal parent sometimes takes that to an extreme in their own sickness and figures better the kids die with them.

I guess I am saying there are all sorts of reasons from what I can tell.

GoldieAV16's avatar

For the same reasons that anyone hurts any other living being.

Judi's avatar

I think it is a result of the exhaustion of child rearing.
My children still tease me about the time I was so exhausted and frustrated with them that I was clenching my teeth so hard the crown on my front tooth popped off.
I am a fairly sane person. Someone else might have lashed out instead of inward.
Parenting is hard work and sometimes overwhelming, especially when the rest of life gets in the way.

Sunny2's avatar

Helplessness, despair, hopelessness, depression, anger, lack of imagination, no way out, weakness, hunger, powerlessness, fatigue, mental illness, physical illness, lack of community support, no love available, loneliness.

wundayatta's avatar

It’s a complicated problem and there are a lot of reasons why people abuse. This kind of behavior varies depending on age of child (infant to age 18), psychological factors and more. We are talking about things like infanticide, sexual abuse, and other kinds of mental and physical abuse. People do it out of beliefs, out of a sense that babies don’t matter, out of a need for power, out of frustration, and out of being abused themselves (personal history) among other things. The one thing that does not seem to matter is socioeconomic status. Being rich doesn’t keep this particular demon away.

Infants, I believe, are more easily dismissed early on in life. Infanticide is most common at birth, and it is still something that happens dismayingly often in India and China and other places. Indeed, there are ethicists who argue that, morally speaking, an infant who has just been born has no more right to life than one that is in the womb. I believe this is an intuitive understanding that can help some women justify throwing away babies in trash cans or what-have-you.

According to Childhelp, there are more than three million reports of child abuse in the United States each year. By 2010, five children were dying each day from abuse, up from a little over three children a day in 1998. That has got to be an increasing rate of deaths.

Prevent Child Abuse Americal says there are many causes of child abuse. Preventing it requires programs that help families learn how to be good parents from early on in pregnancy. People also have to cope with a history of child abuse. In their fact sheet, they state:

Currently, home visitation is the most innovative and holistic prevention program used in approaching the difficulties of educating and supporting the at-risk family, while at the same time making a wide range of community and professional services available to the family. This strategy is a comprehensive program in which services vary widely in both scope and content. An array of services may be offered, including nurse visitation to monitor the health of an infant and mother, in-home parenting education, and the intervention of a social worker for the purpose of preventing the placement of an infant in foster care. Most importantly, home visitation programs strive to create social networks for new parents by connecting them with other center-, community-, and hospital-based prevention programs. This helps break down the social isolation experienced by many new parents, especially those in poverty stricken communities. Social isolation is a proven risk factor for child abuse.

Psychologically, women can be motivated to sexually abuse children for the same reasons men do. In a BBC article, Mark Easton quotes Michele Elliott, founder of the children’s charity Kidscape and author of the book Female Sexual Abuse of Children: The Ultimate Taboo:

“Women abuse children for the same reason men abuse children – for sexual gratification, for power. Quite frankly it is something they enjoy doing. I know that is hard for the rest of us to comprehend but women are no different than men in that case.”

Another study of female abusers found, “Female perpetrators evidenced marked difficulties in psychological and social functioning. About half had mental problems, both retardation and psychotic illness. More than half had chemical dependency problems, and close to three-fourths had maltreated their victims in other ways in addition to the sexual abuse.”

Not everyone wants children. For some people, children seem to just happen. They are not equipped psychologically to deal with children, and so, what for the rest of is is unthinkable becomes standard operating procedure. Education is the best tool we have to prevent child abuse, but of course, in this era of cutbacks, those kinds of programs are the first to go.

Blackberry's avatar

My guess is mental health issues, either preexisting or brought on by extreme stress from the kids and life.

majorrich's avatar

I Believe that as our society, and technology and consumeristic-instant gratification oriented psyche has evolved to the forefront, we have failed our now child bearing aged children that some things are hard. In making thins easy for them, the unintended consequence is they aren’t prepared for the rigors that is rearing a child,and vesting that child with wholesome values that our parents tried and our grandparents did. There are exceptions to be sure, but our transformation from an agrarian to urban society left the spiritual side of our nature out of the mix. We have left them with no inner strength to go to when times get harder than getting a higher score on the SAT or working on a term paper. When times get really really tough, they lack the toughness to emotionally and mentally handle the problem. I am beginning to see that a faith in a higher power, be it God, Allah, Budda, what have you, that we didn’t have time to pass on to our kids because we were too busy working two jobs to support their lifestyle and make life easy for them, has left them with nothing to fall back to. (please excuse my punctuation and writing style I am typing as fast as my brain will work as this is an epiphany for me) Our grandparents and older grew up in a much slower world where father worked and mother was there all the time to show them how to take care of children, discipline them when they needed it and instill an ethic that with hard work comes great reward. This was in keeping with the agrarian society where if you worked the earth, or worked at your job hard, and had God on your side, you would be rewarded. As we become more urban, we no longer have the family farm, we have single parents, we have left God from the mix, and we have forgotten to teach our children that sometimes life is hard, beyond hard, and we need a faith or an inner strength that allows us to endure when by ourselves we should fail. We no longer have the work hard, get rewarded at our jobs. Instead we have a cut-throat world where every day you must do battle to keep your identity or get sucked into the machine. People take your work for their own and are rewarded, emasculating men and disappointing women. Depression follows and we have that small precious child that we have to try and teach values and morals to survive in a world that is changing every day. It is like shooting a moving target. The only constant left is an unchanging God who, when everything else fails, is something to anchor to and use as a foothold to push back and get your footing to go another day, or keep from getting swept away.

The muse is leaving. I’m not even going to try to read what I typed above as it looks a mess. I grew up under very different circumstances than most Americans of my generation. We moved no less than 15 times before I graduated from High school. I have survived Cancer, and am still alive despite what doctors have told my wife and I. The only constant in my life has been the greatest gift my father and mother could give was an unshakable faith in a higher power that would help me be tougher than what the world would throw at me. I still call Japan my home, but can never go back. All I can do is be a bullwark for my son as he finds his faith, and hope if I am not enough, that God is there at my back when I am not strong enough.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Because they’re psychotic, disgusting bitches.

Just my opinion…

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Apart from maiming or killing children, mothers with severe personality disorders especially those who have difficulty with empathy and/or attachment can seriously harm their children emotionally. It is painful to watch when you are close to the situation and can’t do anything to stop them. If these children have someone else who values them and allows them to work out their own feelings about their experiences, these children can (eventually) overcome these painful experiences.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

So many reasons. Some I know of since people have shared “why I did what I did” stuff with me:

The mother hates the father, hates feeling burdened with whatever degree of responsibility she has for the child. When the child is irritating, disappointing or outright “bad” then she sees the child as an offshoot of the father, continuing his behavior he has/had with the mom.

The mother feels the child is beyond reason and believes the beatings will shock the crap out of the kid to stop whatever it is mom thinks is a problem. I knew several kids growing up who were terrified of taking what the rest of us thought were normal risks, pushing the envelope kinds of things because if caught, they would be beaten whereas we knew we’d just be belted, spanked, grounded, whatever.

Believe it or not, some women don’t think they’re hating their kids by beating them or being overly stern or even emotional cold. I have a relative who treated her daughters harshly, practically servants and she believed she loved them strongly.

There’s all out frustration and emotionally blow up where the mother may feel like no one is helping her, she has no support, no control and so when her kids push her buttons, she feels as if they’re attacking rather than being kids.

Like others above wrote, there are plain ole sociopath parents who are hard to explain and thankfully are fewer than greater. They are the stuffs of Lifetime Channel, Unsolved Mysteries, and History’s Monsters.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Apart from what @SuperMouse and @wundayatta said, what constitutes hurting your child and abusing them varies greatly by culture. If the culture condones those actions enough, parents will do it. There are lots of people who hurt their kids because “kids need tough love” or “spare the rod, spoil the child”.

Coloma's avatar

Yep what @janbb said. It’s about immaturity, perhaps other mental disorders and self hatred.
When people cannot accept themselves, love themselves, they tend to project their self hatred and persecution complexes outside themselves on whomever is unfortunete enough to be in their line of dysfunctional fire. Sad and one of my staunchest boundaries, do not take your stuff out on me, I’ll dump you so fast your head will spina

Linda_Owl's avatar

Frequently children get injured / killed by their Mothers because they are the only things/people over which the Mothers have control. Many women feel like they do not have control over their own lives & mental health situations are rarely looked upon kindly by society or law enforcement or government entities (& it is rarely covered by health insurance).

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