16 Days of Activism: Expert unpacks shock rise in children killing their parents

As more shock cases surface, an expert weighs in on why children murder their parents...and it could be as disturbing as 'just to fit in'.

The shock killing of an elderly Limpopo woman by her son after a heated argument over loud music, has sadly been one of several cases of parricide making headlines lately.

Over the weekend, another apparent case of a son allegedly murdering his mother, surfaced in KwaZulu-Natal.

These cases of alleged domestic violence towards a parent, sadly plays out against the backdrop of our country observing 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which kicked off on Saturday, 25 November.

Parricide in SA: Concerning rise in children killing their parents

Speaking to The Citizen, Danie van Loggerenberg, CEO of the National Centre for Child Protection, revealed that he has “definitely observed an uptake in cases of parricide this year”.

Unfortunately, according to Van Loggerenberg, the cases aren’t always reported as such and are merely indicated as murder cases when crime statistics are released.

Why do children commit this heinous crime?

Van Loggerenberg unpacked some of the reasons which could possibly serve as the trigger for children to commit this heinous crime. In some chilling cases, he said, a child might even go as far as killing their parent just to “fit in”.

He added that they also record an overwhelming amount of reports of “children hitting, kicking, biting, and threatening their parents”.

  • Long-term abuse: Parents rarely appear to be the targets of their children’s rage. But when a child does kill his or her parent, one of the main reasons found is due to the years of abuse that the child endured.
  • Jealousy of other siblings: In South Africa we have seen cases where a sibling becomes jealous of the relationship their sibling(s) have with their parents. That obsession drives them to murder the parents and sibling(s).
  • In abusive households’ children witness one parent suffer at the hands of the other parent or a partner. Although this rarely leads to murder, it does impact the way a child treats their abused parent.

  • Children who suffer from a severe mental illness can be found murdering or harming their siblings/parents. They tend to lack impulse control and in turn cannot rationalise their behaviour nor their thoughts. This often leads them into hurting others or to committing a crime.
  • Overly strict parents: the treatment a child receives, and lack of freedom might just drive them to murder. When parents do not allow their children any freedom, this may cause them to resent their parents. And after years of this built-up tension, the child eventually reaches breaking point and explodes. This is when accidents such as killing a parent may occur. 
  • When a child does not feel heard nor understood, it most certainly contributes towards the treatment they hand out in return to their parents. 

 Van Loggerenberg said that if a parent does not attend to a child’s needs from birth, it causes the child to develop an insecure attachment style.

“This kind of attachment impacts the child and the way in which they interact and treat others. They often struggle to relate, connect, and understand others. This adds to them struggling to form meaningful relationships with others when combined with a lack of empathy.  A murderer often lacks empathy,” he explained. 

  • Socio-economic factors are at play, stress and family tension may be high in the fight to survive poverty. 
  • Children have access to a wide range of information made readily available to them and the rest of the world. Social media apps, such as TikTok, have a very clever way of getting people hooked after just a few swipes. The child being eager to keep up with what is trending in the world, regularly checks up on the trends. Influencers market certain products and try out different things. 

 “Sometimes there are challenges that are created, and children often see these challenges and then copy them. Some of these challenges are risky and dangerous, and without any parental supervision a child sees and then tries it at home and this often ends in tragedy,” Van Loggerenberg continued. 

READ ALSO: Son murders elderly mom after argument over loud music

Murdering a loved one could secure entry into gang

Mixing with the wrong crowd, which could even include gangs, could serve as a huge contributor to reasons for children murdering their parents, according to Van Loggerenberg. 

Gang members tend to assign tasks for the child to complete in order to join.

“The child seeking a place to belong will do almost anything to be accepted into such a group. These tasks often include stealing, beating people up, dealing in drugs and sometimes even murdering a loved one to show the group ‘they have what it takes’,” he said. 

Most recent cases of SA children killing their parents

Former Durban Youth Radio presenter Andy Kerr was arrested at the weekend after his mother was found dead in their home in Hazelmere, Durban.

Neighbours became worried when the elderly woman seemed to have disappeared. After neighbours called authorities, her decomposing body was found on a bed.

Kerr, however, claimed she had died from natural causes.

In another incident this month, a 37-year-old man in Limpopo allegedly murdered his elderly mother after an argument over loud music.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Hlulani Mashaba said they have opened a case of murder.

According to Mashaba, the victim was with her 17-year-old grandson when the suspect arrived and played music loudly. The elderly woman tried to reprimand her son, but he became aggressive and allegedly started physically attacking her.

READ ALSO: Ruan van Heerden gets 25 years in jail for killing his mother

In October, a 16-year-old boy in Nomzamo, Strand in Cape Town allegedly murdered his 46-year-old mother by stabbing her in the neck. Drugs are suspected to have triggered the teen’s action.

Also in October, a 21-year-old man was arrested for his father’s murder and mutilating his body. In this case it was reported that the man is mentally-ill.

In Durban, a teenage boy was arrested for hitting his father with a hammer after an argument.

In May, a 21-year-old man in Hillcrest, Durban stabbed his father to death following an altercation.

READ ALSO: Gruesome murder: Man on the run after chopping mother into pieces

‘We live in a violent society’

The Citizen also spoke to gender-based violence (GBV) activist Reverend June Dolley-Major, who said we live in a very violent society. 

We see at a young age children start fighting. They get it from movies and games where you have to kill in the game. Sometimes it’s anger and they don’t have an outlet. The child usually takes it out on the parent. Sometimes their goals come first and they kill their parents for their goals.

“We as a society are to blame because we have shown children that the only way to resolve things is to fight. They reach boiling point and then they kill.

“As a society, we have to change the way we as adults behaviour. Children look at our actions not what we tell them,” she said.

Read more on these topics

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