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When children kill their parents

Publication Date : 10-04-2014

 

Two recent cases have sparked widespread horror and revulsion, with many asking what has gone wrong with the institution of the family in Thailand

In the last few weeks Thailand has witnessed two murder cases in which young men have apparently slain their parents and siblings.

On March 8 a couple in Pathum Thani and their son were shot dead in their home by the eldest son, aged 19. On April 3 in Bangkok, a husband and wife and their elder son were killed in their home by two gunmen who the police say were hired by the couple's younger son, 22.

Police say the accused in the first case had confessed to murdering his parents and younger brother in a fit of anger at being continuously scolded by his mother. He said she also broke a promise to buy him a car and, on the night of the murders, refused to let him use the family car to pick up his girlfriend because he was drinking.

In the second case, police say, the slain couple's younger son and his close friend arranged the contract killing of his family. Police say the son, who had left home to live with a close friend, felt slighted by and angry with his parents for frequently comparing him to his successful elder brother, a police officer. His parents also owned land worth over 100 million baht and had bank deposits of more than 10 million baht, fuelling suspicion that a lust for inheritance was also a motive.

The multiple murders have caused shock and dismay across the country. People are wondering what has gone wrong with the institution of the family. The possible motives of the perpetrators are being widely discussed on the social media. Expressions of disgust and horror have been coupled with disbelief as users ask who in their right mind would kill their own parents. Many are calling the crime unforgivable and demanding that the perpetrators be sentenced to death.

Psychiatrists and experts on adolescent behaviour have attempted to shed light on the factors that lead young people to kill. Dr Panpimon Vipulakorn of the Mental Health Department has said the way some children are raised can drive them to use violence to try and solve problems. She said domineering parents who encourage competition among their children might cause rivalry that spills over into violence. Anchulee Thirawongpaisan of the Police Hospital said too much parental pressure and high expectations can spark aggression in their kids. Educator Sompong Jitradab of Chulalongkorn University pinpointed increasing materialism as a potential source of adolescent crime. Ticha Na Nakorn of the Kanchanaphisek Remand Home in Nakhon Pathom said lack of self-awareness and self-control were key factors behind murders committed by youngsters.

American criminologist Kathleen Heide, who has studied patricide and matricide, believes most perpetrators had been abused or neglected and lacked any emotional attachment to their parents. Others, she says, were overindulged and had never established personal boundaries or respect for others. Either way, they had not learned ways to cope with anger and emotional distress and had resorted to murderous violence.

Cases in which people kill their parents form part of the larger problem of domestic violence, which includes the murder of a spouse or partner, a sibling and even a child.

Shocking though they are, such cases provide lessons we can use to lower the incidence of violence within the home. Parents should guide their children in how to deal with conflict in constructive rather than violent ways. Kids also need to be guarded from the toxic mental side effects of a diet of parental pressure and materialistic desires. The consequences of violence within the home are terrible for all involved. We can help reduce the frequency of such tragedies by becoming more aware of the deeper causes and tackling them before they explode into life-ending violence.

 

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