The case of Lashanda Armstrong, the New York woman who killed herself and three of her children last week by driving into the Hudson River, has the nation reeling. Many cannot believe that a mother would cause such harm to her children. Jocelyn Noveck of the Associated Press challenges this notion by examining just how many women kill their children in the United States. Experts are saying that more mothers than fathers kill children under the age of 5.
In the article, Cheryl Meyer, co-author of Mothers Who Kill Their Children, is quoted: "I'd say a mother kills a child in this country once every three days, and that's a low estimate." Several databases track such killings but do not separate mothers from fathers or stepfathers. At the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System reported an estimated 1,740 child fatalities — meaning when a child dies from an injury caused by abuse or neglect — in 2008. According to numbers compiled from 16 states by the National Violent Death Reporting System at the CDC Injury Center, 130 children were killed in those states by a parent in 2008, the last year for which numbers are available.
"The horrific stories make the headlines, so we believe it hardly ever happens," says Meyer, a professor of psychology at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. "But it's not a rare thing."
The numbers may actually be higher, since some crimes are not easily detected, like a mother smothering or drowning her infant or newborn. People need to pull their heads out of the sand and realize that this idealized notion of motherhood is simply that — an ideal. The realities of motherhood include enormous amounts of stress, and mothers need help managing it and their lives. Novek raises an important point that folks need to pay more attention to warning signs and less to romantic notions of motherhood. We agree.
Read more at MSNBC.