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Citation Information

Type Journal Article - Journal of Interpersonal Violence
Title Characteristics for the identification of children who commit family murder in South Africa
Volume 0
Issue 0
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2017
Page numbers 1-18
URL http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0886260517717493
Children who commit family murder have been increasingly reported on in the South African media. Violence of this type has far-reaching consequences for families and communities. In this qualitative study, nine documented cases of children who committed family murder were analyzed to gain an in-depth understanding of the factors that contribute to children murdering family members. The personal and systemic reasons for these types of murders guided the research. The Interpersonal Parental Acceptance-Rejection Theory (IPARTheory) was used as theoretical framework. The researcher argues that the quality of the interaction between the parent and the child, as well as individual differences within a specific environment, is central to committing family member murder. A narrative summary of the general characteristics of children who kill a family member was compiled. In this study, the children were predominantly exposed to dysfunctional family environments characterized by problematic attachment to the caregiver/s, rejection, abuse, and extreme parenting styles. The parenting styles were often extremely authoritarian or in some cases permissive. The caregivers often expected the child to conform to their idea of the ideal child, and nonconformance resulted in punishment and rejection. These children presented with interpersonal relationship problems, anxiety, and aggression, and fantasized about escaping their challenging home environments. In some of the cases, the children abused alcohol and drugs. In only a few of the cases, signs of antisocial personality disorder were present. The family murders committed by children were predominantly committed by males. The weapons used in the murders were often everyday objects available in the environment. In this study, it was important to note that children who commit family murder have unique backgrounds and circumstances. Therefore, the characteristics discussed in this article only serve as a guideline to understanding these children.

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