Mothers Who Kill Their Children: Understanding the Acts of Moms from Susan Smith to the "Prom Mom"
There is every reason to believe that infanticide is as old as human society itself, and that no culture has been immune. Throughout history, the crime of infanticide has reflected specific cultural norms and imperatives. For instance, infanticide was legal throughout the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome, and was justified on grounds ranging from population control to eugenics to illegitimacy. Archeological evidence suggests that infant sacrifice was commonplace among early peoples, including the Vikings, Irish Celts, Gauls, and Phoenicians.
Historians of infanticide cite a host of factors associated with the incidence of this crime: poverty, overpopulation, laws governing inheritance, customs relating to nonmarital children, religious and/or superstitious beliefs regarding disability, eugenics, and maternal madness. This broad range of explanations for the act of a mother killing her child suggests that infanticide takes quite different forms in different cultures. Indeed, there is no intuitively obvious link between the exposure of disabled or otherwise ill-fated newborns in ancient Greece, for example, and the practice of female infanticide in modern-day India.
Nonetheless, a close examination of the circumstances surrounding infanticide reveals a profound commonality linking these seemingly unrelated crimes. Specifically, infanticide may be seen as a response to the societal construction of and constraints upon mothering. Factors such as poverty, stigma, dowry, and disability are significant because they foretell the impact that an additional baby will have upon a mother, as well as upon her existing family.
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New York University Press
Filicide, Infanticide, Women murderers, Mothers, Psychology, Social conditions, Homicide
Psychiatry and Psychology
Meyer , C. L., Oberman , M., White , K., Rone , M., Batra , P., & Proano , T. C. (2001). Mothers Who Kill Their Children: Understanding the Acts of Moms from Susan Smith to the "Prom Mom". New York: New York University Press.