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.
Die Suid-Afrikaanse samelewing word as gewelddadig beskou, met ’n gemiddelde nasionale
moordsyfer wat beduidend hoër is as in die res van die wêreld. Die familie is ŉ kernsisteem
binne die breëre gemeenskap en word tradisioneel as ’n veilige sisteem beskou. Die realiteit
is egter dat ’n groot persentasie moorde in Suid-Afrika deur ’n kennis, familielid of lid van
’n huishouding gepleeg word. Die doel van die artikel was om die kind as ’n persoon wat
familiemoord pleeg, beter te verstaan. ’n Kwalitatiewe navorsingsontwerp is gevolg en kwalitatiewe
inhoudsontleding is vir data-analise gebruik. Die geval wat in hierdie artikel bespreek
word om die tipiese kenmerke te illustreer van kinders wat familiemoord pleeg, het deel
uitgemaak van ŉ PhD-studie in opvoedkundige sielkunde. Alhoewel elke geval van
familiemoord tot ŉ mate uniek is, is daar wel kenmerke wat in die meerderheid gevalle voorkom
en tot dieper insigte rakende die fenomeen kan bydra. Kenmerke wat dikwels voorkom, dui
op ŉ swak (of geen) band met die primêre sorggewer. Geborge huislike omstandighede ontbreek
oorwegend en die kind se emosionele behoeftes word grotendeels misken. Die akkumulatiewe
stressors lei dikwels tot gevoelens en persepsies van verwerping. Verlies word nie altyd
toereikend hanteer nie. Gesinswanfunksionering, wat mishandeling en ekstreme ouerskapstyle
insluit, is opvallend. Akkumulatiewe stressors het dikwels gevoelens van angs en onderliggende
aggressie tot gevolg. Die akkumulatiewe individuele en sistemiese gebeure vind oor jare plaas
en lei daartoe dat die kind uiteindelik moord pleeg.
Artikel is ’n verwerkte uittreksel van 'n PhD studie.