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Recent Killings Draw Attention to Mothers Who Kill Their Children

Posted on April 21, 2011

Last week, a shocking case of a mother who drove her car filled with her four children into the Hudson River made national headlines. However, a series of articles following this event note that parents and particularly mothers are far more common than the public perceives them to be. One such article notes that parents kill their children at least 100 times a year and that mothers are more likely than fathers to kill children under the age of 5.

Schubert Center Director Dr. Jill Korbin has studied women who fatally maltreat their children for over 35 years. In a recent Associated Press article, she noted that, unlike reducing auto fatalities, finding means of preventing these deaths has proved difficult. She does state that society’s desire to be supportive of a “good mother” may result in hesitancy to intervene even when friends and family members may see a mother struggling.

Case Western Medical School professor Dr. Phillip Resnick is a forensic psychologist who has testified in a number of prominent cases, including the 2001 Andrea Yates case. He spoke with NPR about a variety of circumstances in which parents kill their children, including what he calls an “altruistic killing” which occurs when a depressed parent decides to kill his or her children to spare them from the cruelty of the world. In a previous study, he found one in every 33 murders in the United States is a parent killing his or her child.

Read the Associated Press article.

To listen to an NPR conversation with Dr. Resnick and two mothers, click here.

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