Perceptions of murder-suicide

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Limbrick, Colette
  • Subject: H1

The thesis is an exploration of discourse on a particular type of familial child homicide referred to as ‘murder-suicide’ and often appearing to occur ‘out of the blue’. The purpose of the research is to contribute to social work understanding of the cultural context of murder-suicide through description and exploration of how murder-suicide is perceived and constructed in five specific cases. The empirical basis includes a narrative analysis of selected newspaper reports, semi-structured interviews with social workers using vignettes and semi-structured interviews with relevant professionals who had post-incident involvement in the cases. The structure of the thesis follows the format of an introductory chapter; a review of the literature relevant to murder-suicide, family ideology, childhood and the role of professional social work and the influence of the media on the creation of discourse; followed by a discussion of the research methods; and three empirical chapters concerned with narrative analysis of newspaper reports and interviews of social workers and relevant professionals. The thesis concludes with a chapter on the relevance to social work. \ud \ud The key theoretical perspectives are a focus on the social construction of social problems and the existence of multiple discourses. The thesis concludes that a single interpretation of murder-suicide is insufficient. Social workers in particular identify a range of social and individual factors, intertwined and difficult to disconnect from each other, that contribute to the actions of the individual in committing murder of their own children. Familiar discourses are identified within which the phenomenon of murder-suicide is described and made sense of, including gender roles, domestic abuse, power and control and mental health. The thesis concludes that for murder-suicide, like other forms of child abuse, social workers must give up ideas of omnipotence and accept the fallibility of social work in protecting all children.
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