Friday, January 21

Researcher: – Parents who love their children can also kill them

– There is a predictable pattern for child murder in Norway, says researcher Vibeke Ottesen at the University of Bergen.

– Rather than believing that parental love makes us immune to child murder, we must know that precisely the unconditional love can pose a risk to the children, says homicide researcher Vibeke Ottesen.

In the last ten years, 17 children in Norway have been killed by their parents, or become victims of deadly violence by their parents. It shows figures from Kripos. In four of these cases, the mother or father committed suicide afterwards. The same was the plan for «Bente», as VG tells the story on Saturday.

According to her, she and her son were subjected to psychological violence by the father of the child for a long time. When, after the break-up, she feared that her ex-husband would share care for her son, she saw no other way than to put an end to everything, both for herself and her son. “Bente” received help in time, but wants to tell her story to show that people who are thinking of taking the lives of their children are in a desperate situation where they need help to see other solutions.

The mother who wanted to kill: Read the whole story here

– COULD BE ME: – When I see cases in the media about mothers who take the lives of their own children, I think it could have been me, says “Bente” to VG.

– Human psychology is such that we believe we are the best parents for our children. It makes us good parents in normal situations, but if you end up in a life crisis, then our love can make the children vulnerable. Parents who love their children can also kill them, says Vibeke Ottesen at the University of Bergen, who has researched child murder and murder in close relationships.

In recent years, there have been several cases where fathers or mothers have taken the life of their child before they themselves committed – or attempted to commit – suicide.

In December 2020, a 27-year-old mother of three went out into the winter waters of Tromsø. Two of the children died, and the mother herself. The youngest child survived. Half a year earlier, in July 2020, a woman in her 30s killed her two sons aged 1 and 7 in their home in Lørenskog. This summer, she was sentenced to 21 years in prison, but has appealed.

KILLED CHILDREN: The mother who was sentenced to 21 years in prison for the murder of her two sons in Lørenskog will try the case again in Eidsivating Court of Appeal.

Criminologist Vibeke Ottesen has researched child murder and parental psychology for the past fifteen years and has assisted the police with knowledge in several cases, most recently in the investigation of the Lørenskog mother.

– Rather than believing that parental love makes us immune to child murder, we must know that precisely the unreserved love can pose a risk to the children, Ottesen says.

Think it’s in the child’s best interests

– The children are the girlfriend they have, and they find it difficult to leave the children in this world. Many say that they commit child murder because they think it is in the child’s best interests. We have this from suicide letters that they leave behind, and from those who survive suicide attempts, Ottesen says.

In her doctoral dissertation, she studied 39 child murders and cases of fatal violence against children in the years 1990–2009, and found that 80 per cent of child murders occurred in connection with a parent’s psychosis or suicide. Psychosis is a serious mental disorder in which there is a lack of reality, such as failing judgment.

– You must not be mentally ill to take your life. You think suicide is the solution and can no longer bear to live, Ottesen explains.

WAS AFRAID OF LIFE: – It is horrible to think that it went so far that I considered taking the life of my own child. My son’s love was there, but the fear was stronger, says “Bente” to VG.

– When you are a parent who loves your child, you do not necessarily cope with the idea that they will live without you. You have your understanding of the world and your life and future that makes you take your life. Then you should make an assessment of the life the kids may have without you as a parent.

She believes we must take into account that even good parents can take their children into death.

NEED HELP: – These parents are in great need of help and treatment, so that they can regain the ability to assess what is best for themselves and their children, says Lars Mehlum, psychiatry professor and center manager at the National Center for Suicide Research and Prevention.

– Rare situations

– We must be aware that situations where parents kill their children and secondly themselves are rare, also in Norway, says professor of psychiatry and suicidology Lars Mehlum at the University of Oslo, Lars Mehlum.

– When it happens, it is usually about people who in the situation have lost the ability to realistically judge what is the child’s – and often their own – best. This can be due to mental disorders such as depression with psychotic symptoms, persecution perceptions or the experience of a threatening disaster. Then the parent wants to protect their child by taking it with them in death, says Mehlum.

He emphasizes that there may be variations on this theme.

– But in most cases it is about parents with serious mental difficulties and a strong need for help and treatment, so that they can regain the ability to assess what is best for themselves and their children and find other and acceptable solutions to the problems, says Professor Lars Mehlum.

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