"A mother kills a child in this country once every three days, and that's a low estimate." These are the words of Cheryl Meyer, a psychology professor and co-author of the book Mothers Who Kill Their Children.
"When Moms KILL: Mothers killing kids not as rare as we think", an Associate Press article, appeared recently in the local newspaper. The article reports on the findings of Meyer, her co-author Michelle Oberman, Lita Linzer Schwartz (co-author of Endangered Children) and Jill Korbin, an anthropologist. All four women researched filicide, the killing of one's children.
There are five categories of filicide -- hiding (or ignoring) a pregnancy then killing the newborn shortly after birth, death caused by abuse, death caused by neglect, a mother assisting or coercing her partner to kill her children and a mother killing her children unassisted.
Mothers who murder come from all races, backgrounds and socio-economic classes. There are, however, some similarities between the women. They all feel a sense of isolation with no emotional support. Many times they are about to suffer a split between themselves and the children's fathers either through death, divorce or a breakup. Oberman says, "sometimes depression is enough to send a woman over the edge." Many of these women believe the are doing a good deed by killing their children and sending them to a better place.
Society is also to blame. Despite the fact more mothers than fathers are responsible for the murders of children under the age of five, society refuses to believe women are capable of killing their own children. This means warnings signs often go unrecognized or unheeded. Intervention could have prevented many of filicides. To make matters worst, women aren't always checked for mental illness after their crimes have been committed.
Says Meyer, "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."