Another family murder-suicide

22 January 2021: Another murder-suicide has just taken place, this time in West Virginia, USA, with five children being shot by their mother, who then turned the gun on herself.

Each time this happens, we trot out the same words – “unimaginable”, “unspeakable”, “unconscionable” – but, tragically, we do little to address the root causes of these horrific murders that occur somewhere around the world every, single day.

In some countries outside the USA, “filicide”, as it’s known – killing one’s own children – is one of the leading forms of homicide, occurring on an almost weekly basis.

Some researchers suggest that, although this extraordinary crime is committed almost equally by men and women, the motivations of men and women are different. Writing in Australia, where another such family murder took place just days prior, lecturer Denise Buiten suggests that women tend to kill because they have mental health problems, while men tend to kill because they’re intrinsically violent.

More objective analysis of the data, however, reveals little or no apparent difference – either in how often, or why, men and women kill their own kids. One of the most distinctive, common denominators in many of these harrowing events is actually ongoing, or prior, family court proceedings involving the children’s parents.

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