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Why Does a Dad Kill His Family?

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There were two cases of family murder-suicide in the news this week. A psychologist explains what causes a father to snap ... and gives warning signs to look out for.

Ervin Lupoe

Earlier this week, an unemployed California father, Ervin Lupoe, killed his wife and five children after both parents had lost their jobs.

A few days later, Mark Meeks shot and killed his wife and their two children, then shot himself.

Momlogic spoke with psychologist Dr. Michelle Golland to find out how this can happen. She gave us warning signs every mom should know.

What causes a father to snap and commit Familicide?

Dr. Michelle Golland: Most familicide where a parent kills themselves, children and spouse are committed by men. In the case of the recent tragedies in California and Ohio, it does appear that the loss of a job had been the tipping point in these cases. This can be a response in the wake of financial hardships in a family, particularly by men, because the shame and fear they have in regards to not being able to provide monetarily for the family. It may be causing stress in the marriage that can contribute to the men feeling even more out of control in their lives. It appears that men who also kill the children did not want to "leave" them behind to experience the emotional pain of having lost a parent, or they believe the shame that either the death of the parent or the shame of not having their needs met contributes to the irrational belief that it is "better" if they all die together.

Does this have to do with the "breadwinner mentality"?

Dr. Michelle Golland: Yes, it does have to do with the real or imagined fear of not being able to provide food and shelter for their family. They feel very ashamed and out of control with little coping skills to handle the stress they are experiencing.

Will we see more familicide with the economic recession?

Dr. Michelle Golland: Yes, I am very concerned we may see more of this in the future. Part of the problem is the attention given to these stories by the media. It can help trigger more of these types of events because these people see it as an "option" now. It is important that employers have steps in place to assist families who are being terminated due to the economy. Phone numbers of counseling centers should be given out as well as some information on coping with stress and where to receive financial assistance from government agencies in their local area.

Are there any warning signs that a husband or father is about to snap?

Dr. Michelle Golland: The warning signs are similar to that of suicide accept that the big precursor is loss of a job:
*Pessimism, hopelessness, desperation, anxiety, withdrawal and sleep problems.
*Increased alcohol or drug use.
*Buying of a weapon. If you own a weapon and a job loss has occurred, I recommend it be removed from the home.
*Impulsiveness and taking risks
*Threatening suicide
*Giving things a way
*Unexpected rage

If you are seeing these or any warning signs and there has been a major negative change in your financial situation, take the signs seriously. Ask your partner questions about what is going on with him. See if you can become a "team" regarding the financial crisis. Come up with alternatives given your particular situation that will decrease familial pressure around money. Lastly, seek professional help. There are many low-cost counseling centers that can help you and your family through this challenging economic time.

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7 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous January 31, 2009, 2:10 PM

These deaths should be blamed on our govt and workplace. I only have dogs. If I needed to, I would take their lives along with mine as I am the only one that can give them what they need.

If I were a child, I would want to go with my parents, not some aunt or uncle but my mom or dad. The govt is to blame for letting the society and big cooperate business take over , billions to upper management and crushing the workers.

You can blame it on Bush or Obama, both should have seen this coming along time ago and no action was taken.

There is no one I would trust to leave my animals with let alone if I had children.

Yet instead of taking care of our country, family etc, we keep sending our men to die………..I use to be a proud American but what does that cost now, family.

Than we have our movie stars esp singers making millions. Yes, many like Paul Newman who give back and many more than others that keep taking…….

Shame on us, Shame on society not or ignoring until to late …. society is our country, one which I was proud of until they overlooked and now kill our own.

Minister Davis January 31, 2009, 6:59 PM

I don’t believe this. Read (1 John 4:19) is the bible, and (1 Timothy 6:11-13). We are going to half to tell God look out for us.

Anon February 1, 2009, 12:15 AM

Minister Davis,
I don’t understand what John 4:19 has to do with this, and 1 Timothy should go 6:11-14. With all respect and love sir. Keep doing God’s work, we do need men like you. Especially now. God bless you.

Margy February 1, 2009, 11:41 AM

The Koran and Hadeeth justify “Honor killings” of girls and women who “dishonor” the Muslim family.
This must be done by any family member of either gender. This is Sharia Law….The Law of Islam.

Kitty February 1, 2009, 8:51 PM

Oh yeah, let’s blame this on the gov’t and God…that’s just ridiculous! People give the gov’t to much power over their private lives by blaming them for not being able to cope because of jobs being scarce…sure there is a lot of problems in America, but have you been paying attention to what goes on in other countries? Do you not see those who are starving? Diseases that will never be researched to help heal the sick? Why would you ever think it would be better to kill your own family instead of making sure you are doing your best by them by teaching that it’s not a bed of roses out there, this is a time to come together, a time to cling to each other, a time to teach your family some survival instincts. Not to cling to a pet, but a time to watch out for each other. Hope is still alive and well in America. There are so many programs out there and people willing to give and share, I just can’t agree that any man would have the right to take their own children and spouses life! I’m just glad you aren’t who anyone goes to for answers anon…There is a lot of things I don’t agree with that goes on in America…But even so, I am proud to be living as an American…I love my country as much as the men that serve Her and continue to fight for our freedom. I too wish our men were home with their families. I don’t get why our men are sent to fight battles and freedom for other countries…I feel we have enough to contend with in our own backyard before we should send them to fight for another country.

I too don’t understand what the Minister was referring to.

And what in the world does the Koran or Hadeeth have to do with the men that killed their wives and children? Did I miss something? Were they both under the Law of Islam? Maybe i didn’t hear the whole story. Surely in America this isn’t something that HAS to be done by any family of either gender… there has just been to many that just give up and don’t want to live whether it’s a man who has lost everything except his family and choose to take the family and his own life instead of looking for help.

Be thankful my friends with our freedom of religion and the riches of our country. It could be so much worse than this. Will never be perfect.

Anonymous February 2, 2009, 5:13 PM

These suicides are the result of the fact that society as a whole is steeped in materialism. Too many people nowadays don’t have a spiritual life beyond where their next thrill, and their next toy, will come from. And we’re also dealing with a huge issue of entitlement. Life owes us such-and- such, and if we don’t get it we’re willing to throw the ultimate tantrum!
There’s no better way to learn to value life just all by itself, naked life, than coming face to face with your own mortality, by being diagnosed with cancer. All the trappings all of a sudden don’t matter anymore, all you want is to live, to survive. If you make it you find that your priorities have changed forever.
Life’s a journey, a learning experience. How sad some folks will throw it away for such utterly mundane reasons. And worse, commit murder before they take their own life.

Bmsczscq June 30, 2009, 12:13 PM

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