Medea syndrome, when a parent is capable of murdering their children as revenge for their ex-partner

Medea fell in love with Jason, with whom she fled after helping him seize the Golden Fleece. The leader of the Argonauts paid for it by abandoning her years later for Creusa, the daughter of the king of Corinth. The Colchian princess’s response was to cut the throats, out of spite, to the children she had had with Jason.

It is a brief summary of the myth of Medea, Long represented on stages around the world. Unfortunately, also a tragic event that is repeated too often in reality, in all countries and times. Murders that are especially stirring. When they are carried out by men, it is sometimes called Medea Syndrome in reverse and it is not strange that sexist violence converges. Probably the best known case in Spain is that of José Bretón.

Within the disorder defined as Medea syndrome, andThey would also include psychophysical or affective-emotional aggressions of minors, murder being its most extreme manifestation.

“There is no crime with a more complex understanding than the murder of a minor by one of his parents”, a statement that anyone could share and that comes from Philip J. Resnick, probably the expert who has studied the most in-depth filicide, that incoherent act of taking the life that you have created and that makes headlines with certain (always too much) frequency. Now on account of the alleged murder of Olivia and Anna at the hands of their father, David Gimeno.

Filicides, and we are not talking here only about crimes attributable to Medea syndrome, they are different in many ways from other murders. To start with, there is a higher rate of subsequent suicide or attempted suicide of the murderer. Cheryl L. Meyer and Michelle Oberman in their book Mothers who kill their children they calculate that between 16% and 29% of mothers and between 40% and 60% of fathers end up killing themselves.

According a post 2007 (revised and corrected in 2021) by the expert columnist of the Ibero-American Society for Scientific Information (SIIC) Sara G. West and Dr. Susan Hatters Friedman, although 95% of murders globally are the work of men, “apparently, the number of child murders by mothers and fathers is roughly equivalent. ”

On the other hand, “although the actions of both lead to the death of a child, mothers often use less violent methods. Although each case is particular, one study indicated that paternal filicide was more likely the result of anger, while maternal filicide was more frequently linked to the mother’s state of mind. “

Also according to West and Friedman and referring, “once the filicidal act has occurred, legal systems seem to treat women and men differently. Apparently fathers, when convicted of their crimes, receive more severe penalties than mothers. “Furthermore,” society often believes that filicidal mothers are ‘crazy’ or driven by mental illness, while fathers are seen as “wicked” “.

In fact, another characteristic of filicides is the high percentage of serious mental illnesses behind them. In 80% of the cases investigated by Philip J. Resnick and other experts in 2005, the parents had experienced psychotic breakouts. Incomprehensible deaths that, taking that into account, perhaps seem somewhat more understandable.

But not all child murders are linked to a loss of reason. Resnick, a pioneer in classifying filicide and neonaticide, talks about four other categories: accidental filicide linked to abuse or mistreatment; the one related to unwanted pregnancies and lack of social and economic support; the so-called altruistic filicide, linked to the so-called god syndrome and in which the parent believes that they are doing good; and in which children are the vehicle to take revenge on the couple, which would be the one that would fit with the so-called Medea syndrome with which this text began and which is also a type of vicarious violence, the one that is exercised against those that the person you want to harm loves, who may be current partners, parents or siblings, for example.

How is a father capable of killing his son out of revenge? According to psychologist and criminalist Sandra Méndez, with which 20minutos spoke after the murder in Madrid in 2018 of two children, one with a severe disability, at the hands of his father and who could fit into this so-called altruistic filicide: “They are people who have no empathy, they have no regrets. And there is awareness of the damage that is taking place. We are talking about an antisocial personality disorder, a psychopathy. There is a motive, a prior premeditation, although with our healthiest reasoning it escapes us as well “.

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