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Minerva Psichiatrica 2009 June;50(2):117-21


language: Italian

Murderous mothers: violence, psycho-pathology and social isolation

Di Giacomo E., Clerici M.

Dipartimento di Neuroscienze e Tecnologie Biomediche Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca Monza, Itali


According to literature, we may divide mothers who commit filicide acts in two main categories: some kill in a deteriorating social environment and economic poverty, often have suffered domestic violences during childhood, are younger and less educated than the comparison group, often unmarried and have to face an unwanted pregnancy. They are less frequently affected by a psychiatric disorder and the murder may be placed in an abuse climate context toward their offspring. They generally arrange the death of only one of their children, by negligence or by an act of not premeditated violence (shaken baby syndrome, head injury). They are less prone to attempting suicide after their act. The other category is composed by older women, educated, who kill all their offspring by a premeditated act, using a violent method. The murder is configurable as altruistic or spouse revenge. They are often separated/divorced and affected by a psychiatric illness (especially postpartum depression). In most of the cases they attempt suicide and often have a history of self-harm. They frequently verbalize their murder thought with both the practitioner and their relatives, but their appeal remains unattended. Women who kill their children seem to have in common the context of loneliness in which they live. Whether due to social degradation, to the fact their psychological distress is not suitably welcome or to the fact they have to face a pregnancy alone, the isolation they feel may lead to an unbearable vicious circle and to extreme acts like those in exam.

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