Study finds why parents kill their children

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According to the researchers, the motivations for revenge child killings were often linked to complex personal and interpersonal relationship problems. Photo: iStock
According to the researchers, the motivations for revenge child killings were often linked to complex personal and interpersonal relationship problems. Photo: iStock

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Recent research into child killings in South Africa has revealed that sometimes parents murder their children to take revenge.

The study, which is the first of its kind in South Africa by Dr Melanie Moen from Stellenbosch University and Professor Christiaan Bezuidenhout from the University of Pretoria, was recently published in the Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling. Dr Moen and Prof Bezuidenhout have analysed media reports and court documents about revenge filicide cases from 2003 to 2021 and released the study's highlights on Monday.

READ: Eastern Cape father kills his daughter and nephew

About two weeks ago, Nomboleko Simayile, 32, from Tsalaba Village in the Eastern Cape, bludgeoned her four children Lizalise (11) Inganathi (9), Othalive (5) and Elihle (2), to death with a sledgehammer.

A week later, about a 25-year-old father from Thafeni outside Dutywa, an hour away from Tsalaba Village, allegedly murdered his seven-year-old daughter and his nine-year-old nephew.

According to the researchers, the motivations for revenge child killings were often linked to complex personal and interpersonal relationship problems.

READ: Grandfather of four children bludgeoned to death with sledgehammer speaks out

The researchers said other reasons for revenge child killings included marital discord, a breakup, a new love interest for the receiving partner, and a divorce that can strip the murdering partner of their investment, control and social status in the relationship.

Our analysis showed that a parent can kill a child because of a loss of social identity due to rejection, extreme rage and anger, blaming others for their misery, sadism, a desire to cause pain and a need to inflict harm.

According to the researchers, the sense of loss of social identity and the anger and disappointment experienced by the murdering partner becomes an overwhelming, blinding rage that sweeps away everything in its path. The murdering partner becomes enraged by the pain they experience and wants to hurt their partner or ex-partner because they themselves are emotionally and psychologically hurt.

The blinding anger is caused by extreme emotional distress. The accumulation of the overwhelming negative emotional experiences leads to a desire to cause pain at all costs, sometimes sadistically, to ensure a reciprocal justice balance, for instance, the murdering parent believes that killing the child will cause the spouse or partner to experience the same hurt and that this type of ‘justice’ will bring about some form of equilibrium.

The researchers added that the offending partner wants the receiving partner, who they believe inflicted this emotional and psychological pain on them, to experience the same pain by murdering a child or children in retaliation.



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