Mothers and Fathers Who Murder Get Treated Differently Because They're Different

Robert Franklin, a co-blogger at Glenn Sacks’ blog, complains that mothers who kill their own children get treated more sympathetically than fathers:

Her behavior, according to the story was “a cry for help.” If a father had murdered his toddlers, would we say he was crying out for help? I’ve never seen it and I frankly don’t expect to.

So this story falls into the familiar pattern – when women behave badly, we seek to understand why; when men behave badly, we judge and condemn them. One approach is love and understanding; the other is condemnation. The difference is based on the sex of the bad actor.

I’ve seen this complaint made by many MRAs, and I was initially inclined to agree with it — after all, all else being equal, there’s no reason to have any more sympathy for female than male criminals. Plus, I fully believe that the media is sexist. And maybe the media’s sexism is biasing their coverage of filicides. But there’s another reason for the imbalance Franklin notices: mothers and fathers murder for very different reasons.

“Filicide” means the murder of a child by her or his own parent. And all the research agrees: paternal filicide (murder of kids by fathers) typically has very different motivations from maternal filicide (murder of kids by mothers). The typical father-killer is a longtime abuser, and is motivated by a desire to control his family, or by jealousy because he believes (rightly or wrongly) that his wife is cheating on him or leaving him. (He is, however, sane, in the legal sense that he has an understanding of right and wrong.) The typical mother-killer is committing neonaticide in a context of postpartum depression, denial, and social isolation; or, if she’s killing an older child, she’s doing so out of a deranged belief that the child is better off dead.

Is it unfair that our society looks down on revenge-killings of children, more than we look down on killings done in postpartum madness? Maybe. But that’s not an argument that Franklin makes. And it’s usual in our society to find killings done by people who understand right and wrong more reprehensible, and deserving of a greater level of condemnation.

Research published in The Journal of Family Violence found:1

The data on motives indicated major differences between the two groups of offenders: Men were more likely to kill their children as a means of reprisal against their spouse, whereas women were more likely to kill their children for altruistic reasons.

(“Altruistic”? How can murder be “altruistic”? Well, obviously it’s not genuine altruism: but the killers believe the murders to be altruistic.)2

Let’s take sex away from this. Which is more sympathetic — a parent who kills a child because the parent has come unhinged from reality; or a parent who kills a child for revenge on a cheating or divorcing spouse? Is it really unjust if the latter parent gets treated more harshly by the press, and by the courts?

In an article in The Guardian, Jack Levin, a professor at Northeastern University, profiles men who kill their famililes:

“He doesn’t hate his children, but he often hates his wife and blames her for his miserable life. He feels an overwhelming sense of his own powerlessness. He wants to execute revenge and the motive is almost always to ‘get even’.” [...]

In the majority of cases, if the perpetrator fails in his own suicide, as in the Hogan and Hall cases, they almost always plead some form of insanity.

But Levin rejected this: “These are executions. They are never spontaneous. They are well planned and selective. They are not carried out in the heat of the moment or in a fit of rage. They are very methodical and it is often planned out for a long time. There are certain people the killer blames for his problems. If a friend came along, he wouldn’t kill him or her. He kills his children to get even with his wife because he blames her and he hates her. The killer feels he has lost control. Annihilating his family is a way of regaining control. It is a methodical, selective murder by a rational, loving father. That’s why it is so terrifying.”

This is a case in which reality is not sex-neutral. Although there are individual exceptions, if you read about a filicide in which a parent is going mad from social isolation and depression and kills their infant, odds are overwhelming that that parent is the mother. If you read about a filicide in which a parent kills their infant because they’re trying to control the other parent, or get revenge because the other parent wants a divorce, odds are overwhelming that parent is the father.

That said, I’m not arguing that sexism has nothing to do with it — actually, sexism has a lot to do with the differences in how mothers and father murder. Writing in Child Abuse Review, Ania Wilczynski argues that sexist social conditioning accounts for the difference in how women and men commit filicide:3

Marked sex differences were also apparent in filicide motivation. While men tend to predominate in the retaliating, jealousy and discipline categories of filicide, women tend to be found in the unwanted child, altruistic and psychotic categories…. The literature reports comparable results on both these findings.

The gender differences in filicide motivation indicate that an understanding of the social construction of masculinity and femininity may be crucial to an adequate understanding of filicide. Men are socialized to be unemotional, aggressive, dominant and sexually possessive. Therefore their filicides tend to most commonly involve retaliation, jealousy and discipline. Conversely, social norms encourage women to be passive, nurturant and self-sacrificing. Hence women’s filicides tend to be found in the altruistic, psychotic and neonaticide categories. Thus, while filicide is often seen as an aberrant and inexplicable act committed by someone who is either evil or mentally deranged, it is important to place the crime in its social context and to see that it represents in extreme form the playing out of traditional gender roles.

MRAs like Robert Franklin might do more good if they concentrated on fighting the sexist model of masculinity that harms nearly all men, but also leads a tiny minority of men to feel that they have to murder to maintain control of their families. If men felt less need to be “aggressive” and “dominant,” fewer men would be murdering their families. To this end, we should be looking at changing the culture of violence and bullying that too many boys are raised in, and too many adults (of both sexes) accept or encourage.

Men who commit felicide have very often been abused themselves, when they were children. Obviously, our society needs to do more to fight child abuse. But it would also be worthwhile to try and provide counseling and services to adult survivors of child abuse. Men are frequently socialized to avoid admitting when we need help, so outreach programs for male survivors of child abuse are also extremely necessary.

What about reducing felicide among mothers? The lowest-hanging fruit here is neonaticide, the murder of very young infants by their mothers. Mothers who commit neonaticide are usually poor, usually teenaged, usually socially isolated, and are often in denial about having been pregnant. Increased sex education, and increased availability of free prenatal care — including confidential care for minors — would be good steps to take. I’d also speculate that it would help if society was more accepting of teenage pregnancy, so that pregnant girls might feel less desperate and isolated.

UPDATE: Welcome, Glenn Sacks dot com readers!

If you’re interested in having your comments approved here, use conventional English, and a mild and respectful tone. Comments with a sneery attitude, WITH SENTENCES WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS, or a general “you feminists are such stupid bigots” attitude will be deleted.

  1. Léveillée S, Marleau JD, Dubé M (2007) Filicide: a comparison by sex and presence or absence. of self-destructive behaviour. Journal of Family Violence v22 n5 p287-295. Link. []
  2. From Psychiatric News: “In ‘altruistic’ filicide a parent—almost always a mother in this category—kills her child or children as an extension of a suicide attempt. ‘These mothers see their children as an extension of themselves,’ he said. ‘They do not want to leave a child motherless in a ‘cruel’ world as seen through their depressed eyes.’ In a second type of altruistic filicide a child is killed to end his or her real or imagined suffering. ‘These mothers may project their own unacceptable symptoms onto the child,’ he said.” []
  3. Wilczynski, Ania (2005). “Child Killing By Parents: A Motivational Model.” Child Abuse Review v4 365-370. Pdf link. []
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60 Responses to Mothers and Fathers Who Murder Get Treated Differently Because They're Different

  1. 1
    ADS says:

    I’m going to agree with you, but only in the context of the child murders we hear about on the news. I believe that the majority of children killed by their parents are simply abused to death by an angry parent – babies shaken, toddlers punched too hard in the head, things like that. I really have no numbers on that sort of abuse, but it seems to me that since so many of those cases involve minority children and children of color in impoverished neighborhoods, we don’t hear about them, or we don’t hear about them unless they’re local news. When middle class white parents murder their children in a public way, everyone hears about them.

    We had a case here in New York recently, where a girl named Nixzmary Brown was beaten to death by her stepfather while her mother did nothing to help her. The stepfather and the mother both went to jail, but the mother was sentenced for a significantly longer period of time. The idea was that, being the mother, she was responsible to protect her daughter, and did not do that, so even though she wasn’t involved in the beating, the fact that she didn’t call an ambulance afterwards meant that she was just as guilty, if not more so, than the stepfather. I sort of buy that argument from a parent vs. stepparent perspective, but not from a mother vs. father perspective.

    Anyway, the point is: I’m not sure that there’s much difference between the intentions of an angry abusive parent whether they’re a mother or a father.

  2. 2
    Silenced is Foo says:

    Any person who would do this is mentally ill. There is something very, very wrong with a person who would kill their own child. I fail to see the logic in rating the morality of various destructive pathologies.

    I mean, we discuss “psychotic” in the list of reasons a woman kills her family members… and maybe it’s because I’m not educated in psychology, I just can’t understand the idea that a man who kills own flesh and blood to hurt his wife is considered mentally healthy.

  3. 3
    PG says:

    ADS,

    I think Amp is looking at intentional murders rather than reckless homicides; i.e., the parent who shakes her child to death unintentionally has committed a different crime than the parent who deliberately drowns her children one by one. For example, Nixzmary Brown’s stepfather was convicted of first-degree manslaughter, not of any murder charge.

    SiF,

    There obviously is something “wrong” with a person who kills her own child, but that doesn’t mean such a person is insane in the very specific legal sense. I mean, there’s also something wrong with a child who kills the parent, but that doesn’t mean the child is insane either. If I felt confident that I could outsmart the cops, I could rationally decide to kill my parents in order to obtain my inheritance. That I make an effort to avoid having authorities find out about the killing is a good sign that I am legally sane; I know that I will get in trouble for committing the act. Killing my parents for money doesn’t make me insane, just evil. They’re not the same thing.

  4. 4
    Silenced is Foo says:

    I don’t know – one of the most common charges about violent abusers is how they rationalize, how they excuse their own actions. They pervert any concept of right-and-wrong. How the excuse themselves in their own minds with whatever flimsy justifications they can grab ahold of.

    How is that different from a woman who believes that killing her own children is “altruistic”?

    Nobody who does terrible things – at least, terrible things that don’t improve their own lot in life – believes that they’re “wrong”. Everybody finds ways to excuse themselves, and finds them much easier when they have nothing else to show for their crimes but some invented moral high-ground.

  5. 5
    Sailorman says:

    I agree that people who murder their children out of a sane desire to further their goals are more culpable than those who do so during period of insanity. But defending murder by women or men as somehow “better on average” than murder by the other sex seems to be building a case on a succession of generalities.

    In other words, you seem to be sort of saying “most men/women ___, therefore most men/women ____, therefore most men/women _____… therefore we can rate filicide by men and women differently.” But with every logical step you make that’s based on an assumption or generality, your conclusion suffers.

    More to the point, it’s unnecessary. I do not think it is at all accurate to apply generalities to a specific situation, in cases where you know the specifics. And in filicide cases, we often have a decent knowledge of the specifics: if we know the filicide happened, then someone has interrogated the accused (unless they’re dead.) Filicides, unlike some other cases and/or abuses, do not generally get ignored by the cops.

    I don’t know the statistics, but let’s assume for a moment that your characterization of men and women who commit filicide is correct on average. Then the question becomes “is it correct to apply an assumption or a framework based on past statistics, to an individual?”

    generally speaking, in criminal cases and other instances where there is an accused party, my answer is “no.” So if group A has many members who commit X crime, we shouldn’t assume group A members are likely to commit the crime. If group B has many members who share Y characteristic, we shouldn’t assume any member of group B has the characteristic.

    So in that vein, I don’t think should view male kidkillers differently based on their maleness, any more than I think we should do that for another group.

  6. 6
    Ampersand says:

    In other words, you seem to be sort of saying “most men/women ___, therefore most men/women ____, therefore most men/women _____… therefore we can rate filicide by men and women differently.”

    No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m sorry if it came across that way.

    Of course every individual should be judged by their own, individual acts, not by their membership in any group.

    My point is about how we judge an allegation of media bias against a group. If group A genuinely acts, on average, in a marginally less reprehensible way than group B, then it’s not proof of media bias if the newspapers treat group A, on average, with marginally more sympathy than group B.

  7. 7
    PG says:

    SiF,

    I don’t think you’re grasping the difference between legal insanity and simply having some psychological disorder like anti-social personality disorder. A psychopath feels justified in his actions, but he also will try to cover them up. There’s an interesting article in the New Yorker currently about research on the brains of psychopaths, and if you read the stories of their crimes, you’ll see that they generally recognize that other people will think they did wrong, and therefore they try to avoid getting caught. Someone who is genuinely insane believes that not only did they do the right thing by their personal standards, but that their rightness will be recognized by others.

    My impression is that Amp was responding to an MRA’s claim that the media is biased in favor of women, and Amp’s response was that there have been some differences between why men and women kill their children that explain why the media would treat those murders differently. Has there been a male murderer in the news who, like Andrea Yates, had a long-documented mental illness and who believed that he had to kill his children to save them from the devil? (And even Yates’s coverage was mixed, especially in Houston.) And where was the sympathy of the media for Susan Smith, who apparently planned to murder her children and certainly attempted to put the blame on the Big Black Man, once it was discovered that she had faked the “kidnapping”?

  8. 8
    Silenced is Foo says:

    Good point. I suppose I was just being contrary. Really, I shouldn’t expect my (admittedly rather morally fringe) viewpoint to be reflected in the news. Amp is quite right – it makes perfect sense that, considering the circumstances of the crimes, women get more sympathy than men for committing the similarly heinous crime, since the public really does have more sympathy for a person who commits a crime out of illness or desperation rather than rage.

    The public, nor the media, is not being sexist unless you consider their lack of sympathy for people who are violently angry to be intrinsically sexist.

    I just think that anger is no more or less moral then desperation when the results are the same.

  9. 9
    lonespark says:

    I wonder how easily they distinguish between neonatal murder vs. abuse/neglect/avoidable accidents.

    Depressingly, it seems to me that a lot of maternal filicide is “low-hanging fruit” for prevention in the sense that more people should have good mental health care, and the mother shouldn’t be assumed to be the more compentent parent.

  10. 10
    Sailorman says:

    Ampersand Writes:
    November 21st, 2008 at 9:24 am

    In other words, you seem to be sort of saying “most men/women ___, therefore most men/women ____, therefore most men/women _____… therefore we can rate filicide by men and women differently.”

    No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m sorry if it came across that way.

    Sorry if i misread you.

    My point is about how we judge an allegation of media bias against a group. If group A genuinely acts, on average, in a marginally less reprehensible way than group B, then it’s not proof of media bias if the newspapers treat group A, on average, with marginally more sympathy than group B.

    Depends on how you define media bias.

    Some people talk about frequency of coverage, i.e. ‘the media is biased because they report republican abuses of power more often then democratic abuses of power.’ I think that this argument is obviously specious if the coverage matches reality. Yes, the media will report more republican abuses, more male domestic violence, more whites committing banking fraud, more poor committing muggings, because that is how things are. That’s not bias, it’s accuracy.

    But sometimes the media (like everyone else) gets into the “average” narrative, so that they start skipping the reality part and just sort of assuming that the links exist. That is media bias.

    So if newspapers write more often about unsympathetic males than they do about unsympathetic females, AND if they do this because that is how things really are, then that’s not bias.

    Bit if newspapers write more unsympathetically about males in general (individually unsympathetic or not), and they do that because of averages, that IS bias.

    Do you see the distinction I’m trying to make? I don’t know if I’m doing a good job explaining it.

  11. 11
    Bagelsan says:

    Increased sex education, and increased availability of free prenatal care — including confidential care for minors — would be good steps to take. I’d also speculate that it would help if society was more accepting of teenage pregnancy, so that pregnant girls might feel less desperate and isolated.

    I’d venture to suggest that keeping/restoring legal abortions would help with this too. Not killing an unwanted kid is easy is you never have one in the first place. (Unless you’re including this in “prenatal care” which would maybe be a little odd… :p)

  12. 12
    PG says:

    Bagelsan,

    I’m not sure that prenatal care or abortions would do much good for the “have your baby at prom and leave it dead in the toilet” neonaticides. Those young women literally are crazy. If you point them to an abortion clinic or an Ob-gyn, they’ll look at you blankly because they will not acknowledge they are pregnant. We got a fictional representation of this in the first season of Mad Men, as Peggy got bigger and eventually went to the hospital with “cramps,” and when diagnosed as being in labor, insisted that it wasn’t possible for her to be pregnant. It’s a dissociative state; the mind refuses to accept what is happening to the body.

    I don’t think there’s any remedy for such women except to remove the shame and stigma from such pregnancies, so that it will be no more difficult to acknowledge that you’re pregnant and need to decide what to do next, than it is to acknowledge that you’ve started your period and need to grab either a pad or a tampon. Unfortunately, this utterly contravenes social conservatism, which (with some justification) believes that shame serves a useful function in deterring people from doing certain things. There may well be a cost-benefit function in which we have to calculate whether we want to give up the benefits of scaring some women into abstinence or into pregnancy-avoiding-sex in order to obtain the benefits of treating a smaller group of women’s pregnancy as socially acceptable and thereby helping them feel that way about it too.

  13. 13
    james says:

    The typical mother-killer is committing neonaticide in a context of postpartum depression, denial, and social isolation; or, if she’s killing an older child, she’s doing so out of a deranged belief that the child is better off dead.

    Ampersand, the article that you cite in the neonaticide link pretty much says the opposite of what you say here. There’s no link between mental illness and neonaticide, and sentences for mothers are unreasonably light. Which supports Franklin’s suggestion of bias.

  14. 14
    William says:

    Hi

    I am sure that postpartum madness exists but aren’t these Women more likely to kill male children than female children? Wouldn’t that make this a matter of premeditation?

    Fathers are more likely to kill the wife also, but Fathers are also more likely to commit suicide afterwards.

    William

  15. 15
    PG says:

    james,

    Amp cites multiple articles in the linked post, and the point about mental illness is supported by Michelle Oberman’s article, which seems to be the most thorough in studying cases of infanticide in U.S. history.

    William,

    What is the statistical basis for your claims?

  16. 16
    james says:

    I agree we shouldn’t worry about Oberman. I couldn’t care what she thinks. She’s a lawyer, if she was writing a law review or giving a legal opinion I’d be interested. I don’t understand why lawyers try to be amateur criminologists or historians; they don’t have the training, are out of their depth, and should be ignored.

    But Pinker gives what he thinks is the consensus view among scientists, and looking around the web for other opinions this appears to be totally accurate. I can’t help but this implies that when women murder we wrongly attribute it to mental illness, which supports Franklin’s idea that we project a judgement based on gender.

  17. 17
    William says:

    Hi

    I had to find some sources, these facts were something that I just know about from many documentaries and NPR shows. Above and below the 20-30 age range Filicide, by Mothers is much higher and Male Child are the most likely victim

    http://www.allbusiness.com/crime-law-enforcement-corrections/criminal-offenses-crimes/5715579-1.html

    http://www.publications.villanova.edu/Concept/2005/Filicide.pdf

    http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/reprint/162/9/1578

    William

  18. 18
    PG says:

    james,

    Oberman looked at the behavior of American women in the 20th century. Such women are in a time and place where they can turn over responsibility for a newborn to the state; are not generally choosing between the survival of the newborn and of the other children; understand that babies come from having sex; live in a society that deems newborns to be fully human and condemns killing them under any circumstances … I could keep listing the many things that separate 20th century American women from the cavewoman forebears and contemporary hunter-gatherers cited by Pinker, but hopefully the point comes across.

    Moreover, even if you agree with Pinker’s evolutionary determinism, he emphasizes over and over traits that are peculiar to women. At no point does he equate the psychology of female neonaticidalists with that of male killers. He may be denying that mental illness is at work in neonaticides, but he certainly is claiming that some inborn psychological tendency in women is operating. So he too is asserting that men and women are different in some way that’s relevant to neonaticide.

    “Studies in both modern and hunter-gatherer societies have found that neonaticidal women don’t kill anyone but their newborns, and when they give birth later under better conditions, they can be devoted, loving mothers.”

    Are there equivalent studies about men?

  19. 19
    JenLovesPonies says:

    I did some research on parents who kill children a few years back, and what struck me most was that women who kill their children tend to do it in swaddling-type ways- smothering, drowning, that type of thing. Men tend to shoot or beat the kid to death. Afterwards, men tend to get rid of the body as far away as possible from them, whereas women are more likely to keep the corpse as close to them as they can. Also worth noting- men and women kill their children in even numbers, unlike every other crime (except shoplifting).

    Its an interesting discussion. I mostly agree that mental health services would go a long way to preventing these tragedies.

  20. 20
    julie says:

    To me, your article comes from a place of compassion for men and women.

    I also acknowledge we have bias against men in the criminal system. And I think that is what the writer you quoted was bringing forward. So I agree with both sides.

    IMO, many men and women are harming young children for the same reasons now a days. Things have changed.

    I thought this might be of interest.

    “As the world around us grows more violent and less understandable, our need for vengeance and revenge seems to be growing at a comparable rate. The challenging reality we might have to (we know we do) face, if we are serious about making a difference for our children and grandchildren and turning the tide of increasing societal violence (all types of abuse), is that until we stop shifting the blame and looking for solutions and work instead on finding the courage to deal with the issues in a holistic way, nothing will change.”

    “Historically the attitudes of some of those who have been involved in the oversight of women within the criminal justice system have incorporated seeing women as the weaker sex and thus less responsible for their deviant behaviour. ”

    “Things are changing in this regard, with women increasingly being held accountable as adults for the crimes they commit rather than being simply seen as ‘naughty girls’. The arrival of female and younger male judges on the bench appears to have had an impact in this regard.

    “It has seemed at times in the past as if the different treatment has been not only about a failure to see women as adults responsible for their behaviour, but also about a reluctance to send women to prison because doing so allowed the women to evade their responsibility as a mother. ”

    “It can only be a good thing that women’s criminal behaviour is now being judged on the basis of more objective and less patriarchal criteria.”

    Feminist Lashlie, Celia. (2002) “The journey to prison, who goes and why”. Published by HarperCollins (NZ) Ltd.

    BTW, Celia is also a feminist lecturer at NZ University and works with women and crime.

  21. 21
    Circadian says:

    I mean, we discuss “psychotic” in the list of reasons a woman kills her family members… and maybe it’s because I’m not educated in psychology, I just can’t understand the idea that a man who kills own flesh and blood to hurt his wife is considered mentally healthy.

    Just a quick note: psychotic is a much more specific term than mentally ill. Psychosis refers to “thought” disorders, as opposed to “mood”, “personality”, or whatever. Hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thinking are examples of psychotic symptoms. The prototypical male revenge killer here is perfectly aware of what’s happening on around him, it’s just his desires and motivations we think of as unhealthy.

    I agree with Julie above me, though. All these filicides are the result of sickness, and our focus should be on healing the sickness rather than blaming the sick. We can’t really abolish legal consequences, of course, but we can bend our energy toward the root cause.

  22. 22
    Ampersand says:

    William wrote:

    I am sure that postpartum madness exists but aren’t these Women more likely to kill male children than female children?

    William, thanks for providing links to support this claim. But the support for the above claim (unlike your other claim, about spouse-killing and suicide) seems a little weak. The only reference I saw to frequency of filicide by the sex of the victim, was in the second of your three links:

    Some age and gender differences in the victims have been seen to exist. Mothers most often kill young children, and fathers most often kill older children (Palermo, 2002). Equal numbers of male and female babies are killed during the first week of life, from the age of one week to 15 years the rates of murder for males are slightly higher, and from the ages of 16-18 males are killed at a much higher rate (McKee & Shea, 1998; Palermo, 2002; Stanton & Simpson, 2002;).

    Little research has studied large samples of fathers who kill their children,
    and there is less information available about these fathers than there is for mothers who commit filicide (Marleau, et al., 1999). The results that are available even show some conflicting results in terms of the frequency of gender differences in child murders – some say that mothers are more likely to kill their children, and others say that fathers more frequently commit filicide (Marleau, et al.,1999). This discrepancy can most likely be explained, however, by the methods used to gather data. Inclusion of neonaticide in the general filicide data increases the number of mothers that kill their babies (neonaticide is primarily a mother’s crime) and studies done in prison collect data on mostly fathers because they are more often sentenced to prison (Marleau, et al., 1999).

    So it’s not true that “postpartum” killings are directed more against boys than against girls; neonaticide is equally likely to victimize either sex. It is true that older boys are more likely to be victims of filicide than older girls — but older victims of filicide are more likely to be killed by fathers than by mothers.

  23. 23
    William says:

    Hi

    Men do most of the killing in society so it is no surprise that Fathers kill more children than Mothers. Mothers do most of the gender targeted child murders.

    Doesn’t the fact that the Mother can choose to kill one child and not the other mean that she has not lost all control?

    I find it troubling that most experts agree that there has been little research on the mental state of Fathers who kill their children, yet the courts has seen fit to treat most of them as sane.

    There where other studies that I saw but they had more international data mixed in which would include cultures where both parents kill the female infant to make way for the possibility of a male child in the future.

    William

  24. 24
    Mandolin says:

    ” Mothers do most of the gender targeted child murders.”

    You’ve provided no evidence of this. Provide it, or stop making the claim here.

  25. Pingback: A Mother Killing Her Child Is Wrong, But… « Toy Soldiers

  26. 25
    William says:

    Hi Mandolin

    I am sorry but every study that I accessed stated this point. Many also stated that the Father that murders his children is more likely to kill all of them and also kill the Mother. Fathers are also kill the children as a retaliatory response to the Mother and as a response to their access to the child if they are divorced. These are just facts that the studies reported.

    Don’t think that I am making a plea for Fathers or something, I would truly like to see the most amount of Parents that kill their children in jail for the longest sentences possible. It does not all have to be jail time, if the suspect is not a threat then a very long or permanent parole would be acceptable.

    Insanity is not a excuse for crimes like murder as long as the suspect is able to function in their defense.

    William

  27. 26
    Charles S says:

    William,

    You don’t seem to understand that stating that studies support something is not actually providing evidence if you don’t name or link to the studies that you are referencing.

    Toy Soldier, in his trackbacked post, links to a DOJ report from 2000 which states that:

    Between 1976 and 1997 parents and stepparents murdered nearly 11,000 children. Mothers and stepmothers committed about half of these child murders. Sons and stepsons accounted for 52% of those killed by mothers and 57% of those killed by fathers.

    So mothers were less likely to kill sons than fathers were.

    Perhaps you are confusing the fact that mothers, being more likely to engage in neonaticide, are more likely to kill only one of their children with gender selectivity?

  28. Pingback: Being Amber Rhea » Blog Archive » links for 2008-11-23

  29. 27
    William says:

    Hi Charles

    At some point you just have to believe what studies report or not use any of them. I think that we should also only use studies that report on industrial nations similar to the US, that is where the confusion comes in when quoting research.

    The facts that you gave are meaningless because you did not show data on the percentage of Sons vs Daughters killed by Fathers. Sons killed in the middle of domestic disputes are also another factor that skews the data.

    I have a paper to finish today and will not be around, here is something interesting that I found on the Yates’ case

    http://www.parkdietzassociates.com/files/Exhibits_Used_by_Dr._Park_Dietz_in_Direct_Testimony_re._Andrea_Yates__2006.ppt&ei=FlMpSYLBC4i0ebyE7LsC&usg=AFQjCNG5Tv7i6sYNZahMC1Qcg4Z3xQCh0w

  30. 28
    Mandolin says:

    Hi William,

    Charles and Ampersand have debunked your claim that the studies support your assertion. Mothers do not appear to be committing gender-selective murders, and certainly not in numbers higher than fathers. Can you rebut the evidence as broken down by Charles and Ampersand?

  31. 29
    William says:

    Hi Mandolin

    I never said that Mother kill more Male Children than Fathers. I said that Mothers are more likely to kill a Male Child than a Female Child at some ages. I was never talking about amounts or totals.

    The problem is that there is so many conflicting reports on this subject, I have seen some that dispute what first saw and others that agree. These researchers really need to start Collaborating before they get published

  32. 30
    james says:

    Mandolin, Charles and Ampersand haven’t debunked Williams claim. They’ve just shifted to using the word father in a slightly different sense to the one that was being used at the start of the thread.

  33. 31
    Charles S says:

    james,

    That is an interesting assertion. Care to back it up?

  34. 32
    james says:

    I’m not making a complicated point. If a stepfather kills his wife’s children it isn’t paternal filicide. But the debate’s shifted from paternal filicides to include murders committed by step-parents.

  35. Pingback: GlennSacks.com » Blog Archive » Treat male, female child-killers differently because 'mothers, fathers murder for very different reasons'

  36. 33
    Bernie Misiura says:

    Um, are you asserting that a parent who kills their child for revenge is not unhinged from reality?

    b

  37. 34
    Ampersand says:

    Unhinged in the sense of legally insane and therefore not responsible for their actions? Nothing that I’ve read indicates that they are; in fact, I’ve read experts explicitly denying that.

    (Of course, there may be individual exceptions.)

  38. 35
    jerry says:

    I’d also speculate that it would help if society was more accepting of teenage pregnancy, so that pregnant girls might feel less desperate and isolated.

    Hey Barry, are you sure you’re for women’s equality in society?

    Is there anything a teenage girl can do that makes it harder for her to get through high school and college than having a child? Are there bigger risk factors for poverty? I’d say society’s disapproval of teenage pregnancy is a good thing for teenage girls.

    Feminists like to tell men all about personal responsibility. If men don’t want to pay for a child, they shouldn’t screw.

    But feminists won’t have it the other way around. Tell a woman not to screw and you’re slut shaming. Now you take it further — if society doesn’t welcome teenage mothers with open arms, it is society’s fault should the teenage mother kill that child.

    Why do you infantilize women so?

  39. 36
    Glenn's Cult says:

    I have been following Glenn Sacks website for quite some time now. Sadly this blog speaks the truth in that femlae murderers of children (their own chidlren) are generally motivated by some sort of mental illness. Father murderers of their own children are generally motivated by greed or some warped sense of controlling the children’s mothers. You can also notice that when a mother murders her child(ren) the news generated by that killing is much more intense and longer running than when a father does so. One need only look at Casey Anthony in Florida to see this compared to Ernesto L. Gonzalez Jr. in Middleton. His 5 year old son who was on a visit to his house has been missing since August 17th and has anyone ever heard of him past Mass? I didn’t until today, yet we hear about Casey Anthony daily on network news, Nancy Grace”less”, Dr Phil and many others. Is this because Casey is young and pretty and obviously not a minority and again obviously a mother? Is the other child (Giovanni) and his father being swept under the rug because he is a minority and the dad is not quite as cute as Casey? And again he is obviously a minority? Does this mean that Giovanni is not as important as Caylee? I would hope not but I have my beliefs. And one must wonder what the MRAs from Sacks site will say about a male killing his child versus the possible slaying of Caylee by her mother? I don’t need to guess I already know.

  40. 37
    Myca says:

    Jerry, you’re attacking a position (or several positions, I guess) that Ampersand has not taken. And you’re doing so with an at least borderline sneery attitude. You might want to read the last paragraph of his post before commenting again.

    Bit by bit:

    Hey Barry, are you sure you’re for women’s equality in society?

    I’m sure he is.

    Is there anything a teenage girl can do that makes it harder for her to get through high school and college than having a child?

    Probably quite a few things, yes, but that’s not really what you’re asking. What you’re asking is how Ampersand can reconcile his desire for greater social acceptability for teenage mothers with the likely negative consequences to those mothers.

    Ampersand’s answer is his own, but my answer is that I believe that women should be free to make their own choices, even if those choices are ones I disagree with. Equality isn’t about perfect people with perfect lives getting treated fairly, it’s about everyone getting treated fairly.

    Feminists like to tell men all about personal responsibility. If men don’t want to pay for a child, they shouldn’t screw.

    In general, I believe that if a child comes into the world, both parents ought to bear responsibility for its care. I don’t think that that’s a controversial or outlandish position at all.

    If someone is 100% dead set against even the smallest possibility of becoming partially responsible for the care of a child, then yes, not having sex is the best way to do it.

    But feminists won’t have it the other way around. Tell a woman not to screw and you’re slut shaming. Now you take it further — if society doesn’t welcome teenage mothers with open arms, it is society’s fault should the teenage mother kill that child.

    I don’t think Ampersand said anything about ‘fault.’ He was talking about ways we, as a society, could avoid that sort of infanticide, and it seems to be obviously true. If some significant percentage of women kill their children because they feel depressed and isolated, reducing the likelihood that they will feel that way is likely to reduce the probability that they’ll kill their children.

    If you have contradictory evidence, I’d love to see it.

    Why do you infantilize women so?

    That’s out of line, and as a mod, I’m telling you to stop.

    —Myca

  41. 38
    sonja says:

    jerry, Barry’s not trying to infanitilize women, just state that those young women who do fall pregnant should be more supported than they are.

    Currently, teen pregnancy is looked on like a disease, like something to be eradicated.

    If the girl/woman decides to keep the child, she should be supported by society in her decision. It is her life, her body and the child is hers (and the fathers).

    There is nothing horrible in stating that the support is needed/wanted by teenage mothers.

  42. 39
    PG says:

    Teen pregnancy always has been socially acceptable as long as the mother got married. Not understanding this is why Democrats were so befuddled by Republicans’ cheering for Gov. Palin’s daughter and her fiance — Democrats had been told that teen pregnancy was bad and that women like that were slutty, but here the Republicans were being supportive? What Democrats were missing is that Gov. Palin claimed that her daughter would be getting married, with the implication that it would happen before the baby was born (this being the usual timeframe for marriages catalyzed by pregnancy) so the baby wouldn’t be “illegitimate” or a “bastard.” As it happens, Miss Palin apparently isn’t planning to marry until next summer when her baby will be 6 months old, but no one seems to be troubled by this.

    What has changed is not the shaming of women for being unwed mothers — that’s still in full effect — but the shaming of men for being unwed fathers, which no longer occurs.

  43. 40
    Bernie Misiura says:

    Ampersand Writes:

    December 2nd, 2008 at 12:00 pm
    Unhinged in the sense of legally insane and therefore not responsible for their actions? Nothing that I’ve read indicates that they are; in fact, I’ve read experts explicitly denying that.

    (Of course, there may be individual exceptions.)

    ===

    Does everyone have to take you at your word or can you name the experts and cases?

    b

  44. 41
    jerry says:

    Myca, why is my comment out of line?

    Time after time, Barry seems to claim diminished responsibility for women. Arguably, he is infantilizing them, patronizing them, condescending to them.

    Unarguably, second wave feminists were against this and demanded women be treated equally with men. Gender equality.

    Why is raising that out of line?

    (Why is my semi-sneering tone out of line, when Barry’s sneering tone towards “MRAs” and the tone of so many others here, A-OK?)

    If you want a discussion, let’s have a discussion. Constantly threatening only certain participants with expulsion is no way to have a discussion.

    In this case, asking Barry how we can tell he supports women and isn’t infantilizing them, patronizing them, condescending to them, in short, acting as a patriarch would, is very relevant.

    (Regarding “fault” that’s the next logical step. If teenaged women killing kids is at part due to how society disapproves of teenage pregnancy, how can you say that society is not at fault? Be honest and clear in what you are saying. If society is at fault, let’s not pussy foot around.) (And you may wish to learn what a rhetorical question is, so you don’t waste everyone’s time answering them…)

    By the way, this statement is completely irrational. Not necessarily wrong, it just doesn’t follow logically: you pose a hypothesis and provide no evidence. Then you demand I provide evidence to disprove your hypothesis, presumably concluding that your evidenceless hypothesis must be correct.

    If some significant percentage of women kill their children because they feel depressed and isolated, reducing the likelihood that they will feel that way is likely to reduce the probability that they’ll kill their children.

    If you have contradictory evidence, I’d love to see it.

    Here’s some more proof by assertion:

    In general, I believe that if a child comes into the world, both parents ought to bear responsibility for its care. I don’t think that that’s a controversial or outlandish position at all.

    Actually that’s very controversial, and I think you understand that. Just google feminists and roe v. wade for men. And once again, refer to the personal responsibility argument that I discussed at the beginning — how feminists tell men their only recourse is not to screw but how feminists then say that if we tell women not to screw we are slut shaming the women.

  45. 42
    Tim Murray says:

    I think you also need to consider that men generally have more substantial criminal records and this is factored in at sentencing (the more priors, the longer the sentence). Judges are the product of our culture which regards women as the nurturing parent who is less violent than the father. In any event, judges passing sentence probably feel like most people — that there is something inconceivably insane about a loving mother killing the child she bore for nine months, and insanity in one form or other generally warrants a lesser sentence. Motive is not an element of a crime, but it is taken into consideration at sentencing.

  46. 43
    Ampersand says:

    Tim, if judges are choosing to see dependents as having diminished responsibility due to insanity, I hope it’s in response to expert testimony, based on an examination of the individual under trial, without regard to their sex.

    A judge who does find mothers, but not fathers, inconceivably insane and hence lessons the punishment for mothers, would be sexist.

    (And of course, judges are in fact sexist in this way — on average, all else held equal, women get sentences about 12% shorter than men for the same crimes. However, that’s “on average” for all crimes — I don’t know if it’s true of filicide in particular.)

  47. 44
    Ampersand says:

    Does everyone have to take you at your word or can you name the experts and cases?

    Bernie, try reading the post at the top of this page. The quote from Professor Levin is particularly relevant.

  48. 45
    PG says:

    Tim Murray,

    In what state can judges give a lesser sentence based on the judge’s personal belief that the defendant is insane? Sentencing “guidelines” have severely reduced judges’ discretion in sentencing, and insanity is a defense to guilt in the first place. Are you thinking of something like the Texas “guilty but mentally ill” judgment, which was what Andrea Yates initially was convicted of being?

    jerry,

    You seem to misunderstand what Ampersand is saying, perhaps due to a gap in knowledge about the difference between how a majority of a category is treated and how the category as a whole is treated. Amp asserts that persons in the category “women” who are in the subcategory “mothers who kill their children” often are are mentally ill. He also asserts that persons in the category “men” who are in the subcategory “fathers who kill their children” are less likely to be mentally ill and more likely to be motivated by revenge or a desire to control the mother of the child. He says it is reasonable for the mentally ill who commit filicide to be treated more sympathetically than the sane, immorally-motivated who do the same.

    Please explain where in that you get the idea that Amp is infantilizing the category “women” or “mothers.” You could argue that he infantilizes the category “people with mental illness,” but frankly most people do that; even the most hardcore 2nd Amendment advocates want to exclude mentally ill adults from firearm ownership.

  49. 46
    Ampersand says:

    Time after time, Barry seems to claim diminished responsibility for women.

    No, I don’t.

    I do think that the class of “women who commit filicide” are more likely, as a group, to have legally diminished responsibility than “men who commit filicide” as a group. This is what much of the research seems to say.

    However, obviously women who commit filicide are not representative of “women” as a class, any more than men who commit filicide are representative of “men” as a class.

    Furthermore, I think we’re talking about statistics, not individuals. Of course if a legally sane woman plots and carries out the murder of her children, I don’t think she has diminished responsibility because she’s a woman.

    If I said “more mothers than fathers are primary caretakers of their children,” that wouldn’t be sexism, nor would it be denying that sometimes fathers are primary caretakers. By saying that, all I’m doing is a reporting a fact. Similarly, when I say “more mothers who commit filicide appear to have diminished responsibility due to insanity than fathers who commit filicide,” I’m reporting what appears to be a fact.

    Unarguably, second wave feminists were against this and demanded women be treated equally with men. Gender equality.

    1. What does “equality” mean? If Ann and Bob both commit murders, but Ann had diminished capacity at the time and Bob didn’t, is it “equality” if they get identical punishments and identical treatment in the press?

    2. I do think that women and men should be treated equally under the law. I don’t think we should be under the illusion, however, that women and men are already equal.

    Did you read the Wilczynski quote in my original post? In an equal society, I’d expect that on average female and male murderers would murder at approximately the same rate, for approximately the same reasons.

    However, our society is not an equal society. In a society in which the sexes are treated differently from birth forward, it would be unlikely that women and men (as groups) act identically in every way. One of the ways that men and women in our society seem to differ is in how frequently each group commits murder, and why. (Note that I’m speaking about groups “on average,” not about individuals.)

    3. I think your view of second wave feminism doesn’t acknowlege the multi-faceted reality. Of course most 2nd wave feminists favored “equality” (as do third wave feminists). But there were major disagreements between different second wave feminists regarding exactly what “equality” meant in practice.

    And, of course, some major second wave feminists questioned “equality” as a goal altogether (Catherine MacKinnon is a famous example). Some second wave feminists have argued that saying “equal to men” might mean saying that women should become like men, rather than both sexes changing as all of society is reformed.

    Why is my semi-sneering tone out of line, when Barry’s sneering tone towards “MRAs” and the tone of so many others here, A-OK?

    Our blog, our rules. We have no lack of MRAs who want to post comments here. On the contrary, we have dozens to choose from. We can afford to be picky.

    And if you find my tone unacceptable, by all means, leave. No one is forcing you to post here.

  50. 47
    jerry says:

    Please explain where in that you get the idea that Amp is infantilizing the category “women” or “mothers.”

    I’d say it’s where he claims that men who kill their kids are less likely to be mentally ill than women who kill their kids.

    As others have noted, there’s a difference between mentally ill as conceived of by psychiatrists and mentally ill in the legal sense. And I don’t think Barry has provided evidence of any sort to back up any of his claims one way or the other. His cites may discuss gender roles, but they don’t seem to be making the medical claims that one group is legally or medically insane and the other is not. (Also, I note that Jack Levin is neither MD nor psychologist, but sociologist.) Ania Wilczynski is a law lecturer (and I can’t find her CV)

    It’s proof by assertion as you note.

    As the Church lady notes, regarding Barry’s assertions that women who kill their kids are to be treated with kid gloves and men who kill their kids are not,

    “How convenient.”

    In other words, it’s his act of placing women in the mentally ill category and not the men, and his conflation of medically vs. legally mentally ill that leads to his infantilizing women who kill their kids.

    Ania Wilczynski, in 1997, argues opposite to Barry:

    This article reports some of the findings of a research project on child-killing by parents or parent-substitutes, drawing on a sample of 48 case files from the Director of Public Prosecutions in London from 1984, and a sample of 24 fatal and 23 non-fatal cases reported in the Criminal Appeal Reports and Criminal Appeal Reports (Sentencing) between 1980–90. It was found that the criminal justice system responds very differently to men and women who kill their children at all stages of the legal process, in accordance with the view that ‘men are bad and normal, women are mad and abnormal’. For example, women are less likely than men to be prosecuted; they also predominately use ‘psychiatric’ pleas and receive psychiatric or non-custodial sentences. Men, however, tend to use ‘normal’ pleas and receive prison sentences. Although this appears to be evidence of men being treated more harshly than women, it is demonstrated that there is some justification for this, on the basis of standard sentencing factors and broader structural reasons. It is also shown that informal mechanisms of social control have a greater impact on the legal processing of women than men. Nonetheless, such dramatically different treatment of the sexes cannot be justified. The paper concludes by suggesting ways to remedy this, drawing on more general criminological debates about sex and sentencing

  51. 48
    PG says:

    jerry,

    “As others have noted, there’s a difference between mentally ill as conceived of by psychiatrists and mentally ill in the legal sense.”

    Kind of. You may want to read up a bit on American criminal law. Basically in most states, if you plead insanity you are asking to be found “not guilty by reason of insanity.” You’re not denying you did it; you’re denying that you were capable of knowing that you shouldn’t do it. If you don’t plead insanity but say you’re just mentally ill and did it, you’re going to be pleading guilty and working out a deal with the prosecutor.

    If you’re mentally ill and claiming you didn’t do it, but get convicted guilty anyway, you can use evidence of mental illness-short-of-insanity to avoid execution in states with capital punishment. Mental illness also might get you put into a psychiatric hospital for treatment instead of put into prison, but this isn’t the “get out of jail free” card that you might imagine; jail has to have a defined term (e.g. 40 years with a possibility of time off for good behavior), whereas they don’t have to let you out of the psych ward until they think you’re “well,” which may be never. Ditto with the insanity plea.

    On the other hand, if your mental illness is one that was triggered by a particular circumstance that is unlikely to repeat, or that can be easily controlled by a medication regime that you are likely to follow, you may spend less time under state control than you would in regular prison, though there still will be conditions on your release. Dena Schlosser, who believed the apocalypse was approaching and cut off her baby’s arms, is going to be released into outpatient care, where she is required to see a psychiatrist once a week, take medication, be on a physician-approved birth control and not have any unsupervised contact with children.

    Some states such as Texas also have a status called “guilty but mentally ill,” which is a fairly stupid copout as demonstrated in the Andrea Yates case: jurors knew she was insane but were initially reluctant to “let her off,” so they compromised on the rather meaningless verdict that was later overturned because Yates was, let’s say it again, insane.

    Someone like Andrea Yates who had a history of mental illness and drowned her children because she believed she had to save them from the devil is insane and ought to be treated as such. When Yates was medicated toward some sanity, she had to be put on suicide watch because she wanted to kill herself for having killed her children.

    Someone like Susan Smith, who appears to have killed her children “rationally,” i.e. to achieve a goal that didn’t involve imaginary beings like the devil, and who attempted to avoid being blamed for the deaths (by blaming the Big Scary Black Man), was sane and was treated as such by the judicial system.

    So far as I know, Amp hasn’t advocated that the Susan Smiths be treated as mentally ill, and hasn’t categorically declared that all women who commit filicides should be treated as mentally ill. He’s simply noted the research that says women who commit filicide are more likely to be mentally ill than their male counterparts. To back this claim, he points, inter alia, to research that says, “Men were more likely to kill their children as a means of reprisal against their spouse, whereas women were more likely to kill their children for altruistic reasons.”

    “Reprisal” is a rational goal that doesn’t involve imaginary beings. Killing your healthy, not-otherwise-in-danger children out of “altruism” (as Yates did to save them from her imaginary devil) is an indication of mental illness at the very least and quite possibly of insanity. Prosecutors will try to claim the reprisal motive for women who commit filicide too — in both Yates trials, the prosecution implied spousal-revenge as motive for the killings, but neither jury found it plausible.

    With regard to the British study, I’m not familiar with British criminal law except as it shares an origin with U.S. common law, but it sounds like the author is saying that there are structural reasons men and women are treated differently, including women’s greater likelihood of having psychiatric histories that make the “mentally ill” mitigating factor an option. It looks suspicious if the first sign of your having psychiatric problems is that you committed murder.

  52. 49
    Mandolin says:

    Maybe something that would help in this conversation is the concept of post partum psychosis. There is a mental illness, which involves breaks with reality, that can be caused by the physical ramifications of giving birth.

    Obviously most women with post partum psychosis don’t kill their infants, but the existance of those whose breaks with reality do cause murder will account for a number of psychotic mothers who murder. Particularly when you have cultural factors that deny teh existence of post partum depression, forbid the treatment of post partum depression, or otherwise exacerbate the condition (for isntance, by attempting to coerce the women into subsequent pregnancies when they are already in bad mental condition).

    Antisocial personality disorder is a condition often associated with violence which occurs in men more often than in women, but as far as I know, ASPD is not associated with psychosis. Men and women with ASPD are interacting with reality, but doing so in a way that most people would find problematic, if not downright immoral. People having psychotic breaks are not meaningfully interacting with reality; instead, they are reacting to nonexistent, and often frightening, hallucinations and delusions.

    So, the assertion here is actually that women who murder their children are more likely to have psychosis.

    It would be more fair to talk about the way the justice system treats men who commit the murder of family members during – say – the middle of a schizophrenic episode as an analog to the actions of women who murder family members while experiencing post partum psychosis.

  53. 50
    Bernie Misiura says:

    Ampersand,

    Really? One periodical, one article, off continent, not peer reviewed paper, this is your expert? I have on many occasions been in a non-peer reviewed paper on continent that has a 271k (that is over 6% of the USA circulation) subscription. I am unconvinced. It would be better to have more than this, NO?

    b

  54. 51
    Schala says:

    “Antisocial personality disorder is a condition often associated with violence which occurs in men more often than in women, but as far as I know, ASPD is not associated with psychosis. Men and women with ASPD are interacting with reality, but doing so in a way that most people would find problematic, if not downright immoral.”

    I’d say that this is a mental health condition nonetheless, and impairs judgment, much like alcohol being forced on you (as you rarely have the actual choice of bringing ASPD on yourself, like you do alcohol (being drunk) in most instances).

    I don’t see much difference between someone imagining threats where there are none (psychosis) and someone fabricating rationalizations out of whole cloth, without knowing it is morally wrong (ASPD), for their actions. Both have their judgment seriously impaired. Wether they have some form of contact with reality is pretty much a moot point when the end result is mostly the same: Actions that don’t accord to reality and not intended maliciously (malicious: ie when sober and perfectly aware of its wrongness).

  55. 52
    Elusis says:

    Schala -

    Clearly you don’t understand the difference between Axis I disorders (mental illness, like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and psychotic disorders) and Axis II disorders (personality disorders).

    Perhaps you should go read up on the difference between the two before opining about how they are probably similar and lead to similar problems and impairments.

  56. 53
    Mandolin says:

    “Clearly you don’t understand the difference between Axis I disorders (mental illness, like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and psychotic disorders) and Axis II disorders (personality disorders).

    Perhaps you should go read up on the difference between the two before opining about how they are probably similar and lead to similar problems and impairments.”

    That.

  57. 54
    Malcolm James says:

    I remember reading about an experiment in which a 10-minute video of a child crying was shown to two rooms of people. One room was told that the child was a boy, the opther that it was a girl. They were then asked why they thought the baby was crying. The people in the room who were told it was a boy tended to say that it was because “he” was angry, those it the room who were told it was a girl tended to say that it was because “she” was afraid. The tendency would thereofre be to tell the boy off and give the girl a cuddle.

    How we perceive people’s motivations is therefore influenced by our preconceptions, in this case that men are evil and women are troubled. They then get diagnosed as such, and these cases then become the evidence on which the research is based. All beautifully circular!

  58. 55
    Silenced is Foo says:

    I’ve got to side with Amp on this, at least somewhat. Whether or not you feel that a crime is worse whether it was committed out of rage or out of depressed desperation, the fact is that the public obviously does.

    The motive _does_ count to the public. A murder-suicide committed with love and desperation in their heart is seen differently than a vicious murder. Notice the lack of sympathy for the wife of Tim Parmeter*. Nobody calls her a “poor, sad, desperate woman”. Amp is saying that, statistically, most male cases of killing children look like her.

    * http://www.sportsline.com/collegebasketball/story/10567327

    Now, whether you feel that this makes a difference is irrelevant. The point is that the public thinks it makes a difference. They care _why_ the child was killed. And so the most common male motive makes villains, while the most common female motive makes victims.

    Personally I think it’s silly – they’re both people too emotionally damaged to function among their loved ones. Love and self-pity are no more noble motives for murder than wrath.

    But the public disagrees, and the papers reflect the public.

  59. 56
    Mandolin says:

    “I’ve got to side with Amp on this, at least somewhat. Whether or not you feel that a crime is worse whether it was committed out of rage or out of depressed desperation, the fact is that the public obviously does.”

    That is not the difference being measured here.

    The difference being measured here is perception of reality. People who are incapable of distinguishing reality from hallucinations, and who murder because of what would be reasonable circumstances if their hallucinations were true, are not considered responsible for their actions.

    If youw ant to argue that schizophrenics who think they’re being chased by were-tigers, who just happen to be people who got in their way, should be given the death penalty instead of treatment and antipsychotics, then do that. But don’t confuse psychosis with depression.

  60. 57
    Mandolin says:

    Sorry, SiF. I see Amp was primarily talking about depression.

    I would be very intereted, however, in seeing whether women who are merely depressed are treated differently than those who present some sort of psychosis. When we talk abotu Susan Smith as rational in trying to deny her crime, that doesn’t exclude depression. Andrea Yates, however, was depressed, but also disociated from consensual reality.