Mothers Who Kill Their Children: Understanding the Acts of Moms from Susan Smith to the "Prom Mom"

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Overview

A special kind of horror is reserved for mothers who kill their children. Cases such as those of Susan Smith, who drowned her two young sons by driving her car into a lake, and Melissa Drexler, who disposed of her newborn baby in a restroom at her prom, become media sensations. Unfortunately, in addition to these high-profile cases, hundreds of mothers kill their children in the United States each year. The question most often asked is, why? What would drive a mother to kill her own child?

Those who work with such cases, whether in clinical psychology, social services, law enforcement or academia, often lack basic understandings about the types of circumstances and patterns which might lead to these tragic deaths, and the social constructions of motherhood which may affect women's actions. These mothers oftentimes defy the myths and media exploitation of them as evil, insane, or lacking moral principles, and they are not a homogenous group. In obvious ways, intervention strategies should differ for a teenager who denies her pregnancy and then kills her newborn and a mother who kills her two toddlers out of mental illness or to further a relationship. A typology is needed to help us to understand the different cases that commonly occur and the patterns they follow in order to make possible more effective prevention plans.

Mothers Who Kill Their Children draws on extensive research to identify clear patterns among the cases of women who kill their children, shedding light on why some women commit these acts. The characteristics the authors establish will be helpful in creating more meaningful policies, more targeted intervention strategies, and more knowledgeable evaluations of these cases when they arise.

Cheryl L. Meyer is Associate Professor in the School of Professional Psychology at Wright State University, and author of The Wandering Uterus: Politics and the Reproductive Rights of Women. Michelle Oberman is Professor in the College of Law at DePaul University, and teaches and lectures at Cook County Hospital and University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Meyer and Oberman's comprehensive work represents the most extensive study to date of American mothers who have killed their children. Written in a manner that is accessible to the general public, and at the same time useful for medical and legal experts, they use extensive resources and expert methodology to provide a sophisticated contemporary classification of these cases. Perhaps the most significant and unique contribution of this work lies in its invitation to the reader to test the limits of compassion, taking this unique opportunity to understand the tragic causes of child mortality so that we can begin to lay the foundations for understanding these cases as patterned and predictable, identify women and children at risk, and prevent these tragedies."

-Margaret G Spinelli M.D,Director of the Maternal Mental Health Program The New York State Psychiatric Institute and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons

"Through vivid sketches of the lives of women wh have killed their children, Meyer and Oberman shatter the myth that such mothers are necessarily mad or monstrous. This carefully researched account shows how social forces can contribute to both the causes and the cures for infanticide. Readers will find themselves shifting from asking, 'How could she do that?' to 'How could we have let that happen to her?'."

-Laura J. Miller M.D,Editor Postpartum Mood Disorders and Chief of Women's Mental Health Services, University of Illinois at Chicago

"This book is informative and interesting and would be useful both in academic and professional settings."

-Feminism & Psychology,

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814756447
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 534,813
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Cheryl L. Meyer is Professor of Psychology at Wright State University School of Professional Psychology in Dayton, Ohio. She is also the author of The Wandering Uterus (NYU Press).

Michelle Oberman is Professor of Law at Santa Clara University School of Law.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: A Brief Cross-Cultural History of lnfanticide 1
1 Previous Attempts to Understand Why Mothers Kill Their Children 19
2 Denial of Pregnancy: Secret Lives 39
3 Purposeful Killing: Neither "Mad" nor "Bad" 68
4 Maternal Neglect: A Search for Meaning 95
5 Abuse-Related Deaths 123
6 Assistance or Coercion from a Partner: Relations to Domestic Violence 146
7 Responding to Mothers Who Kill: Toward a Comprehensive Rethinking of Law, Policy, and Intervention Strategies 168
Notes 179
Index 213
About the Authors 218
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2001

    mothers who kill their children

    why do the womens have the babys and deside to kill um.and lie and say a black man killed .

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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