Social Question

ninjacolin's avatar

How many parents out there chronically think about killing their children?

Asked by ninjacolin (13349 points ) December 5th, 2012

I was just reading another sad story about a mother who seems to have killed her 3 children. I can’t recount how many stories like this we’ve seen over the years. Whether it’s parents drowning their kids, strangling their kids, shooting their kids or whatever it seems to be a “thing” that a lot of humans are capable of. Sure enough, some of these humans become parents and eventually act it out.

Don’t worry: You can skip to the questions at the end.. I just have lots on my mind about this topic as I’ve thought about it before:

The life of the lady in that article I imagine is about to turn way more miserable than it has been. Whatever feelings of guilt, shame, or whatever chronic bad feelings she had before, well, she just added 3 new massive ones. All her freedoms will be removed, she’s probably going to have ptsd symptoms, get drugged up by doctors and receive a hell of a lot of counselling sessions and examinations outside of her control.. Really seems like things would have been better for her had she sought help in advance.

It all makes me wonder why people like this don’t come forward sooner. I highly doubt it was the first time she had such thoughts. I make that assumption based on feelings of suicide that nearly everyone admits to having imagined and considered at some point how they might facilitate it. Not only that, but how people sometimes imagine how they might break into a bank or store or how they might hurt someone who upsets them or whatever. Humans are problem solvers after all. We think of a problem, then our brains calculate ways to solve them. Even if they aren’t real problems and even if we never intend on actually acting on them.

But every now and then we have some people who think about it a little more. They talk about it with friends, they acquire things to make it easier, they REALLY plan how to bring a thing like suicide, murder, or some other crime into their reality. Shouldn’t this be an early sign to an otherwise healthy person that maybe they’re obsessing over something they need help with? To anyone who hears this person talking about the topic a little much.. shouldn’t it be a sign to them to intervene and suggest the person get help with it before they act on it?

Tough question time:
Have you ever had thoughts about harming your children?
Do you know any parents who might one day resort to harming their children?
How would you treat someone who seems like a potential risk to their kids?
If you can sympathize with the parents in these articles, how might you get help to prevent similar consequences for yourself?

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27 Answers

ucme's avatar

Tragically, way too many it seems.
I’m lucky, I worship my kids & would never knowingly put them in harm’s way.
I don’t know what the solutions are for those who feel they can’t cope & take such drastic irreversible action, I just know it’s very, very sad.

Shippy's avatar

No I haven’t thought of harming my own child, I was going to say that, perhaps if females were not under so much pressure to nurture and care for their kids in a particular way. Which is not always something that comes easy to that person, there might be less murders. I cant answer this question, because, through really bad times in all ways with my child. I could never harm him. So the only cure is to hang them.

Some women are just not nurturing you know.

jonsblond's avatar

I have been annoyed with my children at times, but to actually have thoughts of harming them? Never. I can’t imagine having such thoughts and I have no idea how to help someone who does.

ninjacolin's avatar

I wonder if the stigma of being someone who has these kinds of thoughts adds to pressure you referred to, @Shippy. Making it more difficult for these parents to come forward and deal with their issue.

I mean.. who would want to admit to being so different from the norm?

Shippy's avatar

@ninjacolin Yes exactly. I have seen a few documentaries recently on parents/women who say they want to harm or kill their children.

ninjacolin's avatar

Really? Can you list a few? any links?

Shippy's avatar

here

and type I hate my child, I want to kill my child

here too

ninjacolin's avatar

nice try. I type that and the fbi will be at my door in minutes no doubt
and I don’t even have children

more probable reasons people don’t try to get help

ragingloli's avatar

All of them.

nikipedia's avatar

I don’t have any kids so I can’t answer personally. I think it has been reasonably well established that people who murder their children tend to be psychotic—they are not in touch with reality. Often they really think the children will be better off. This article might be helpful.

JLeslie's avatar

My guess is it is an extremely small number.

burntbonez's avatar

I think you have to be at your wits end and out of control and feel unable to regain control over your life in order to kill your children. Your children must seem unmanageable. They must pressure you all the time either with autism or acting out or crying or punching and kicking. And in addition, your own life must be under huge stresses, financial, relational and otherwise. If you are in a perfect storm like that, it opens the door to take a solution like killing your kids. But obviously, it doesn’t happen much.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I think many (dare I say all?) parents (and non-parents) experience feelings of anger and wanting to hurt their children (and partners or friends). I’ve been there. I’ve been in that place while ‘sane’ and ‘insane’ (I dislike the binary, hence the quotes) and I know that, instead of pretending it doesn’t happen, we need to talk about it. We need to talk about it together with a conversation on why some women (poor, single, of color, you name it) can be brought to that point as to murder. I think it’s wrong to consider this exceptional, these murders, because I don’t believe women or mothers to be inherently less capable of murder via some biological imperative to be compassionate. That’s bull. I think we don’t talk enough about postpartum depression, for example, and then wonder why some women (and men who are new parents) go psycho. I think we don’t talk about women doing second shifts (aka she works outside and inside the home as data indicate men still don’t do equal work at home) and then wonder why she (already taxed so much and prevented from help) doesn’t just ‘seek help.’ There are many angles here. I want to be compassionate. I know the children have died and many have been tossed into garbage cans or whatever but I don’t think this is recent phenomenon or a new one. I think mothers have killed their children for a variety of reasons (hello, encouraging sons to join the military for ‘honor’) and it’s not an easy thing to just blame on them. Each situation should be considered on its own and getting info about it from the media is hardly getting at the truth.

JLeslie's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir While I agree with what you wrote, the OP said chronically think about killing. Do you think many mothers regularly think about killing their kids? They might chronically feel overwhelmed, that would not surprise me at all.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@JLeslie I’m going to have to be difficult again and ask you to try to define (and it’s okay if we fail in this) what ‘chronically’ means? And what’s the point of even saying chronically vs. once – sometimes it just takes once, right? Sometimes, chronically doesn’t mean anything, doesn’t lead to anything.

JLeslie's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Well, I definitely think chronically means more than once. I haven’t really heard of cases where a mother thinks of it once and commits the act, but it must happen. But, then I guess it is more like a “snapped” scenario I guess. Just had to shut up the baby so she smothered him, something like that? But, some of the cases seem fairly planned out.

I also agree chronically does not mean it necessarily leads to any action.

No matter what! Like I said, I agree with all you wrote.

JLeslie's avatar

That exclamation mark was unintended. Should be a comma.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@JLeslie These things are so tough to deal with. I suppose I can remember more than one occasion where I wanted to shut up my child or smack them. I didn’t in either case but I’d say I had to exercise great self-control. I think we should also involve the spanking/no spanking debate in this. Why do so many think it’s okay to spank but feel horrified at someone saying ‘Yes, I had thoughts of harm’?

jonsblond's avatar

So I’m in the minority when it comes to not having thoughts about physically hurting my spouse and/or children during moments of anger, @Simone_De_Beauvoir? interesting

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@jonsblond I guess I would have to study this more extensively. Perhaps you are. I would say that moments of anger are not as rare as thoughts of harm and by harm, I mean a huge range of ideas, not necessarily murder (that’s probably very very rare, but who knows?). I would say I can count on my one hand when I’ve thought of spanking my kid or wishing they would shut up. As for whether that’s interesting or your case is interesting, I don’t know. What you did get me thinking about is why I’ve sometimes felt more anger towards my kids than my partner. Moments of wanting to harm him have been pretty much non-existent. I think our children evoke intensity, sometimes…more than partners. Hard to say.

Bellatrix's avatar

Have you ever had thoughts about harming your children? I have not had ‘thoughts’ about harming my children. I have been angry enough for it to happen spontaneously on one or two occasions but have removed myself from the situation because the last thing I would ever want is to harm my children.

Do you know any parents who might one day resort to harming their children?

No. I can’t think of anyone I know now who falls into this category. I do remember a woman who used to yell at her children a lot and very loudly. I didn’t do anything and I feel now with more maturity, that I should have gone over and spoken to her. Asked if she needed some help. She didn’t hurt her children, but she was obviously not coping. I was a young mother myself though and didn’t know what to do.

How would you treat someone who seems like a potential risk to their kids? If I genuinely thought the person was a risk to their children I would report them to the child services department. The children’s welfare has to come first. As much as I feel for parents who might be in that situation, the priority for me would be the children’s safety.

If you can sympathize with the parents in these articles, how might you get help to prevent similar consequences for yourself? I didn’t read the artcles so I don’t know the answer to this question.

wundayatta's avatar

I’ve never spanked my kids. Only once did I ever get so frustrated with my son that I felt like hitting him. I just walked out of the house and stayed away for hours. Turned out there was more going on inside me than just frustration with a kid. I was irritable due to mental illness.

I don’t believe I’ve ever thought of killing them. Can’t remember, anyway, and certainly not in any way other than a child might say “I want to kill you” as an expression of anger.

I think the killing rage is pretty rare, and is a sign of severe mental problems.

JLeslie's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir As you know I do not have children, but I completely believe it can be overwhelming at times. I hear parents joke all the time “take my kids” when I say I always wanted children. Many parents complain about their kids. I know a women who went through bad postpartum depression where she had to have her mother come to take care of the baby or she didn’t know what she would do; even half joked if her mother had not been there she might have killed the baby the first two weeks. I don’t think she would have come close to doing such a thing though, she obviously was willing to reach out for help. she was not secretive about how troubled she felt.

I would be shocked if many parents think about killing their children.

I don’t think spanking is the same. Maybe it seems the same to those who think spanking is never ok in that the parent would have to lose control, lose themselves to do such a thing. Certainly parents who believe spanking is a perfectly acceptable way to discipline don’t think killing their baby is ok. Meaning, they can be in their right mind and calm and believe it is moral to spank, but immoral to kill, I am not talking about in the heat of a moment.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@JLeslie “Maybe it seems the same to those who think spanking is never ok in that the parent would have to lose control, lose themselves to do such a thing.” – yes I think that. But, I’d say many disagree. It’s actually (or maybe just on Fluther) and in certain communities very normal to spank and to believe in it. So if that’s so common, what should we think? I don’t know, it’s not clear cut.

Supacase's avatar

I can say with 100% certainty that I have never once thought of hurting my daughter.

ninjacolin's avatar

Thank you for the honest, frank answers, guys.

As I suggested in the OP, I’m sure these parents aren’t alone and I’m sure many have found appropriate ways to deal with their stresses and shameful feelings of harming their children. When I asked the question, my thoughts were that there may be many who need help but who, like so many even in this thread, have never considered that there could be others who are going through these kinds of issues and perhaps many more who have sought and found the help they need.

Never a good thing to feel alone in a matter like this. I would definitely encourage anyone who has these kinds of urges to at least post anonymously and talk it out with the fluther community if nothing else.

@Simone_De_Beauvoir + @JLeslie re: “Chronically”: Just once might be all it takes. I assumed that if it was that serious and just once was all it took, then there isn’t much help to be sought since the damage is unfortunately done. It would have to be a moment after the thought happened at least once for a person to be able to take action. Does that make some kinda sense almost?

But yes, definitely, if you’ve had even one thought on it and you know that you were serious in the moment, you should consider that a sign and seek help. If you feel you are a risk to your child, you should take the necessary steps to protect your child by seeking assistance.

Strangely, though, I really do think some may have imagined hurting their child without being truly serious about it and certainly without actually being a risk. If you’re right about that, then don’t worry about it. But are you right? If you’re not 104% sure then you should get a second opinion. Talk to your spouse, talk to fluther, talk to a counselor.. do whatever it takes.

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