AbstractThis article looks at the phenomenon of the killing of children within the context of family murder. An analysis of the case studies in the Human Sciences Research Council Report on family murder published in 1991 suggests that the parent who carries out the family murder is usually the 'mother’ figure of the family. This is also the case when the father is the perpetrator, who is then the parent most emotionally involved with the children. This phenomenon is examined against the background of other theories regarding the killing of one’s children. The case of the mythological figure Medea, a mother who also took the life of her children, is also analysed. It is suggested that the underlying cause of a parent killing his or her children is a distorted perception of motherhood. This perception causes the 'mother' to take the nurturing aspects associated with motherhood to an absurd extreme which is totally out of touch with reality and could be termed as a kind of ‘deluded motherhood’. This phenomenon is discussed within the context of disturbed family relationships indicating how different interacting factors lead to the destruction of the family system.
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