Mothers killing children not rare as we think

Mothers killing children not rare as we think

Our shock at such stories is, of course, understandable: They seem to go against everything we intuitively feel about the mother-child bond.

But mothers kill their children in this country much more often than most people would realise by simply reading the headlines, by conservative estimates it happens every few days, at least 100 times a year.

Experts say more mothers than fathers kill their children under 5 years of age. And some say our reluctance as a society to believe mothers would be capable of killing their offspring is hindering our ability to recognize warning signs, intervene and prevent more tragedies.

And so the problem remains. “We have learned how to reduce auto fatalities among kids, through seatbelt use. We have learned how to stop kids from strangling on the strings of their hoodies. But with this phenomenon, we struggle,” says Jill Korbin, an anthropologist at Case Western Reserve University who has studied mothers who kill children. “The solution is not so readily apparent.”

How common is filicide, or killing one’s child, among mothers? Finding accurate records is nearly impossible, experts say. One problem is classification: The legal disposition of these cases varies enormously. Also, many cases doubtless go unreported or undetected, such as very young mothers who kill their newborns by smothering them or drowning them in a toilet after hiding the entire pregnancy.

“I’d say a mother kills a child in this country once every three days, and that’s a low estimate,” says Cheryl Meyer, co-author of “Mothers who kill their children.”

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