SciELO - Scientific Electronic Library Online

vol.57 issue4 author indexsubject indexarticles search
Home Pagealphabetic serial listing  

Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


MOEN, Melanie  and  BEZUIDENHOUT, Christiaan. Family murder by children: A case study. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2017, vol.57, n.4, pp.990-1002. ISSN 2224-7912.

South African society is perceived as violent, with an average murder rate significantly higher than in the rest of the world. The family is a core system within the broader community and is traditionally seen as a safe environment. The reality, however, is that a high percentage of all murders is committed by someone known to the family or a member of a family or household. The aim of the article is to understand the child who commits family murder by determining the contributing individual and systemic factors that lead to family murder. A qualitative research design was followed and qualitative content analysis was used to analyse the data. The case presented in this article to illustrate the typical characteristics of children who committed family murder formed part of a PhD study in educational psychology. Although each case of family murder has unique features, similar characteristics are often present in all these cases, and it is hoped that this case study will increase insight into the general characteristics of this phenomenon. Simone (pseudonym), whose case is described in this article, was subjected to severe family dysfunction and physical abuse by her father and grandmother. She had an ambivalent relationship with her grandmother, who was sometimes caring but sometimes abused her verbally. Simone also had to perform adult duties from an early age, having to collect money for her grandmother at nightclubs her grandmother owned. Her mother did not intervene when the grandmother took over the care of Simone. When Simone was 10 years old, her father committed suicide. Two days before the suicide the father discussed his feelings and suicide plans with Simone. Simone's grandmother blamed Simone for her father's suicide. At the age of twelve, Simone slipped sleeping tablets into her grandmother's tea. She approached two unknown men on the street and persuaded them to kill her grandmother, who, she told them, had murdered her parents. In return she promised the men household goods and sexual intercourse. The men agreed to commit the murder and followed Simone to the grandmother's home where she was asleep due to the medication she had been given. Simone was in the next room when the men strangled her grandmother. Not being convinced that her grandmother was dead, she gave the men a kitchen knife and insisted they slit her grandmother's throat as well. The men subsequently each received 25-year prison sentences. For her role in the murder of her grandmother, Simone received 36 months' correctional supervision, suspended for 7 years. She became South Africa's youngest female murder accomplice. The general characteristics of children who commit family murder (including this case study) relate to weak or no attachment to the primary caregiver. This, as well as the accumulated individual and environmental stressors, lead to feelings and perceptions of rejection. A safe and supportive family environment is often absent; the child's emotional needs are not acknowledged. These children are often not supported when they experience loss. Family dysfunction, which includes abuse and extreme parenting styles, is evident. The accumulated stressors often lead to feelings of anxiety and aggression. The individual and systemic stressors accumulate over several years and result in murder at a seemingly "unimportant" moment.

Keywords : family murder; children; etiological factors; family dysfunction; attachment; rejection; anxiety; aggression.

        · abstract in Afrikaans     · text in Afrikaans     · Afrikaans ( pdf )


Creative Commons License All the contents of this journal, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License