One of the most disturbing and unfortunate crimes that occurs far too frequently is the murder of children at the hands of their mothers. In the United States alone, estimates say that up to three children each day die by their mothers hands. Currently close to twenty percent of the women who are on death row are in prison for killing their children. What is it that makes these women snap and harm their children? That is exactly what forensic psychologists who have to handle and testify at the trials of these women aim to discover.
Dr. Cheryl Meyer, who happens to be a professor of forensic psychology at Wright State University, is a specialist who studies the phenomena. She has even written several books on the subject, including When Mothers Kill. Her studies have helped her to develop several different categories into which she divides the women who kill. Some of them kill their children within the first 24 hours after birth, others kill through abuse, some kill by neglecting their children, others kill with help from a partner, and others snap and kill suddenly and purposefully.
Different psychological factors may be at play with the different categories of killer, and a number of different things can cause a woman to kill. In some cases, theyve suffered childhoods of their own filled with abuse. Loneliness and isolation are other factors that many of these women seem to have in common.
Other psychological factors can be at play as well, such as clinical depression, bipolar disorder, and types of psychosis. Most of the time, when these things happen, friends and acquaintances of the family say the same thing. They never realized there was any sort of problem, and everything seemed so normal. They seem to be able to hide the problem to outsiders and if they dont seek help on their own, it can be impossible to help the children in time. The dangers are very real.
High profile cases with mothers killing their children make their way to the nightly news far more often than one would hope. Most people remember hearing of Andrea Yates, Susan Smith, and others. Forensic psychologists such as Meyer, who is actively studying and researching the problem, are one of the best hopes at getting help for these families before it is too late. For families, taking note of any changes in personality, even minor ones, can be instrumental in keeping children safe.