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Why Does a Dad Kill His Whole Family?

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A psychologist explains what causes a father to snap ... and gives warning signs to look out for.

Christopher Wood

Over the weekend, a man killed his wife and their three children before fatally shooting himself in a northwest Maryland home. His wife had blogged about how stressed her husband had been lately, and the family reportedly had financial problems.

Back in January, 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 familicides 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 except 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 away
*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.

next: Men Who Love Heavier Women
20 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous April 21, 2009, 5:10 AM

sooo sad. there’s no excuse for this, it doesn’t matter what happens you don’t kill people.

Besteone April 21, 2009, 8:41 AM

This sort of thing happened during the great depression in the ’30s. There were many instances where men lost their money in stocks and jumped off of high buildings - or committed suicide by many means.

It is a terrifying place to be in when you have lost your job and don’t see a future (and deep concerns for our country) and don’t want your children and wife to suffer. I totally sympathize, however, there is no shame in seeking counseling and financial assistance. “Snapping” and placing your family through the horror of your father killing you and your family. I don’t even want to think about what they went through. I realize that some were killed in their sleep but many were aware. It breaks my heart.

vlscpa May 6, 2009, 10:38 PM

Lupoe was a fraud and a psycho who blamed his shameful exit on his wife. He and she falsified income records in order to qualify for discounted child care, and they were FIRED for fraud. They didn’t lose their jobs based on the economy, so don’t expect any sympathy from me. THEY LIED, UNDER PENALTY OF PERJURY, AND LUPOE made those children pay the their parents’ penalty.

Anyway, he’s rotting in Hell right now, and how.

vlscpa May 6, 2009, 10:56 PM

Christopher Wood, almost a half million dollars in debt, decided that decapitating his children was preferable to bankruptcy court. He had a history at pharmacies, too, at the young age of 34. Don’t ask for any sympathy for him either, from folks who try so hard to pay their medical insurance premiums that they don’t have the money for drugs, even prescription drugs.

vlscpa May 6, 2009, 11:07 PM

I GOT YOUR WARNING SIGN. If he’s a psycho, a fraud, you’re married to him, and things go South, get outta Dodge.

Powtuqia June 23, 2009, 3:21 AM

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Gigohead  February 6, 2010, 10:09 AM

these men would have done society a favor and killed themselves and left their families to survive. Innocent children do not deserve to die I don’t care how much in debt you are.

nottelling  August 18, 2010, 9:11 PM

there isnt a day that gos by that i dont think about killing myself an my family. money problems justpart of it the stresses of getting along in a house full of adult children, being a stepdad. isnt ez ethere there are more ishues then i care to go into. will i kill all of us. can’t say that i will cant say i won’t as for killing people being wrong live my life for 12 days an then maybe youll change your mind.

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