Women Who Commit Filicide in The Context of Having a Severe Mental Illness: Current Reflections and Future Directions
Filicide, the offspring murder of a child, in the context of suffering from a severe mental illness (SMI), is a grave social issue that requires scientific and practical intervention efforts from a mental health perspective. The psychological prevention and rehabilitation interventions of women who are vulnerable to, or who had committed the act of filicide, is compromised within the South African context and abroad, based on the gaps in the current scientific knowledge base. Research investigations on the subject are limited to quantitative studies. Consequently, the literature lacks in-depth understandings regarding the women’s experiences, obtained directly from the population concerned. It is argued that qualitative research is thus needed, as information yielded by such studies would offer more comprehensive understandings and allow better identifiable opportunities for intervention purposes.
This article has a twofold purpose. Firstly, it provides the authors’ reflections on their clinical impressions of working with women who had committed the act within the context of suffering from a SMI in a female forensic ward at a psychiatric hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa. The clinical presentation, childhood histories, living circumstances, emotional functioning and coping, interpersonal functioning as well as self-perception is reflected upon and compared with international research. Secondly, the author’s reflections point to the need for qualitative studies and further recommend the appropriateness of an attachment frame to such undertakings. Ultimately, it is hoped that the recommendations made herein for future research would inform the establishment of appropriate prevention and rehabilitative interventions on the subject concerned.