Child Murder Committed by Severely Mentally Ill Mothers: An Examination of Mothers Found Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity

    Volume 50, Issue 6 (November 2005)

    ISSN: 0022-1198

    CODEN: JFSOAD

    Published Online: 14 September 2005

    Page Count: 6


    Holden, CE
    Michigan Center for Forensic Psychiatry, Ann Arbor, Michigan

    Hrouda, DR
    University Hospitals of Cleveland, Cleveland

    Resnick, PJ
    University Hospitals of Cleveland, Cleveland

    Noffsinger, SG
    University Hospitals of Cleveland, Cleveland, Ohio

    Friedman, SH
    University Hospitals of Cleveland, Cleveland

    (Received 19 March 2005; accepted 4 June 2005)

    Abstract

    Forensic hospital records of 39 severely mentally ill mothers adjudicated Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity for filicide (child murder by parents) were analyzed to describe characteristics preceding this tragedy and to suggest prevention strategies. Almost three-quarters of the mothers (72%) had previous mental health treatment. Over two thirds (69%) of the mothers were experiencing auditory hallucinations, most frequently command hallucinations, and half (49%) were depressed at the time of the offense. Over one third (38%) of the filicides occurred during pregnancy or the postpartum period, and many had a history of postpartum psychosis. Almost three-quarters (72%) of the mothers had experienced considerable developmental stressors, such as death of their own mother or incest. Maternal motives for filicide were predominantly "altruistic" (meaning murder out of love) or "acutely psychotic" (occurring in the throes of psychosis, without rational motive). Psychiatrists should perform careful risk assessments for filicide in mothers with mental illnesses.


    Paper ID: JFS2005132

    DOI: 10.1520/JFS2005132

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    Title Child Murder Committed by Severely Mentally Ill Mothers: An Examination of Mothers Found Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity
    Symposium , 0000-00-00
    Committee E30