I Killed my Child(ren): a Qualitative Study Exploring the Phenomenon of Paternal Filicide in the South African Context
Sedumedi, Tumisang Precious
The present research investigated paternal filicide in South Africa. It aimed to understand the factors underlying fathers killing their child/children. Study one explored paternal filicidal offenders’ processes of construction, construing of events leading to the filicide, and meanings of their lived experience of killing their child/children. Study two examined the filicidal offenders’ extended families’ construction processes, construing of events before the killing, lived experience and construing of filicide, and construing of the filicidal offenders’ construing of the filicide. Four paternal filicidal offenders and nine family members of the offenders who had different backgrounds (i.e., age, racial, ethnicity, cultural, educational, occupational, and the nature of the filicide) were purposively sampled and recruited into the research. Personal construct theory (Kelly, 1955) underpinned this research. A semi-structured individual interview which was structured according to the Experience Cycle Methodology (ECM) interview proforma (Oades & Viney, 2012), Perceive Element Grid (PEG) (Procter, 2002), and the ABC model (Tschudi, 1977), were administered to the filicidal and family participants. Data was analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2009) and personal construct analytic methods (diagnostic construct analysis, PEG, ECM, and the ABC model). The analysed themes suggest that filicide might co-occur with familicide and attempted suicide by the offender in some instances. While in many filicidal cases intimate/marital problems might be contributing factors, in a few cases filicide might be accidental in which it might not be precipitated by intimate/marital discord. Most filicidal offenders who tend to only construe their partners/wives and intimate/marital relationships in terms of positive construct poles might slot rattle when encountering invalidations of constructions. The encountered problems might trigger threat, anxiety, in which the problems are experienced as unconstruable, and anger which might lead to hostility. The filicidal offenders might lack constructions to deal with the issues which might result in unaddressed problems which might lead to a sense of being overwhelmed and feelings of hopelessness. The filicidal offenders might broaden or delimit their perceptual field or fluctuate between constriction and dilation to construe and cope with the situation. They might exceed their inhibition ability which might result in the avoided issues and inhibited feelings exploding in violence. The extended family members might not intervene in the couples’ problems, if intervening might be possible, because of an unawareness of issues as a result of submergence and constriction in which they avoid construing the couples’ problems, limit their views to issues, and minimise the seriousness of the construed problems. Psychological support, personal construct family therapy and Employee Assistance Program, might help the filicidal offenders cope with their intimate/marital problems, and therefore might prevent filicide. Considering the implications of the filicide on the offenders’ identities, relations, and relationships, and also the relationships of their families, intervention programs such as Restorative Justice and sport might help the offenders re-establish their sense of self, find commonality and sociality while rebuilding the damaged relationships.