Why do children kill their parents?

170327. CAPE TOWN. Triple murder accused Henri van Breda making his way through the media photographers and international TV journalist on day one of his trial. Western Cape High Court Judge Siraj Desai has postponed the start of the trial of triple murder accused Henri van Breda to 24 April. Van Breda is accused of killing his parents and older brother at their home in Stellenbosch in January 2015. Picture Henk Kruger

There are several instances in South Africa and around the world where children kill their parents. This type of news is shocking when one considers the many sacrifices parents make in raising their children to adulthood.

A current court case in South Africa is that of Henry van Breda, the 20-year-old who is accused of killing his mother, father and brother with an axe. A few years ago, there was the case of Xerxes Nursing who was accused of killing his parents.

What increases is the likelihood that these killings can happen? K Heidi in her book titled ‘Why kids kill their parents’ lists the following factors:

  • The youth is raised in a chemically dependent or other dysfunctional family.
  • An ongoing pattern of family violence exists in the home.
  • Conditions in the home worsen, and violence escalates.
  • The youth become increasingly vulnerable to stressors in the home environment.
  • A firearm is readily available in the home environment.

Heide refers to these categories of parent killers:

  • The severely abused child- kill their parents to end the abuse. Violence in the home may escalate and the individual becomes increasingly stressed. These individuals may have a history of depression and Post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Anti –social children- kill their parents to further their own goals. They may want more freedom, to date a person the parents object to and to inherit their money they believe is coming to them.
  • Severely mentally ill children- kill their parents as a result of their severe mental illness. They may have psychosis and severe depression.

Warning signs include:

  • Reckless and unhealthy behaviour such as drinking alcohol, taking drugs, participating in unprotected and indiscriminate sex, staying out late, skipping school or involved in violent gang activity or delinquent acts. They may also be exposed to excessively graphic and violent video games, role- play games, movies and music.
  • Prevention can include being aware of the warning signs, effective communication with children, listening and being good role models as parents.
  • It is recommended a mental health professional be consulted as soon as possible whenever inappropriate behaviour patterns in children are noted and when parents are threatened.

*The views mentioned in this column are that of the columnist. 

Dr Guru Kistnasamy

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