“Although the book is about murder. Heide does not limit herself to purely individual or family-based analysis. She is interested in connecting all the factors which lead to these tragic situations, in good and bad parenting and in social reform. It is this breadth of analysis which makes the book so readable and so useful.” – Judith Bevan in ACCO Child Psychology & Psychiatry Review “This book is a compassionate examination of adolescent patricide offenders (APO's) in the United States of America. It could be commended to anyone interested in how children are initiated into society.” – Joanna Adler, University of Kent at Canterbury Kathleen Heide's sensitive and important account of family life gone wrong examines the shocking phenomenon of adolescents who kill their parents. Using actual case studies and a careful analysis of FBI data, Kathleen M. Heide discusses the motivations and backgrounds of these troubled adolescents, and what emerges is a tragic portrait–the adolescent murderer is almost always a terrified victim of severe child abuse, neglect, and dysfunctional parenting who kills out of desperation. Drawing upon her skill and experience as a scholar, clinician, and expert witness, Heide asserts that a combination of five interconnected problems creates the conditions for parricide: The youth is raised in a chemically dependent or otherwise dysfunctional family; the child is severely abused sexually, physically, and/or verbally; violence in the child's family escalates; the youth becomes increasingly vulnerable to stressors in the home environment; and the child has ready access to a firearm. Why Kids Kill Parents begins with a foreword by notable criminologist Hans Toch, and concludes with an examination of types of intervention that are effective in treating severely abused children who kill their parents. Heide proposes ways in which the media and the educational system can prevent child abuse and parricide by fostering functional families and mitigating the effects of dysfunctional ones. Why Kids Kill Parents is essential reading for all those who care about the nurturing of children and families in today's society, as well as professionals in juvenile justice, criminology, law, mental health, education, and youth advocacy. “Heide's book offers an integrative understanding of both the dysfunctional family and child who kills. Of particular interest to clinicians is the chapter on assessment. This volume is the most comprehensive resource found on children who kill.” – Youth Violence “The resolution of such questions as ‘What is a just response to a parricide by an abused child?' is a societal one. Our society permits divergent ideas (and data) to surface and to compete for adoption. In such a system a scientist and clinician such as Kathleen Heide can play a precious role. The work summarized in Why Kids Kill Parents is a testament to this role. It is also a credit to its author, who cares about ameliorating suffering and reducing despair.” – from the Foreword by Hans Toch “Why Kids Kill Parents contains a goldmine of material for diverse theoretical and practical applications, from aggression theory and legal analysis to specific, practical suggestions for therapy. Kathleen Heide has produced a valuable resource that, I hope and expect, will become a model for similar investigations and serve as a foundation for rational policy development.” – Carolyn Rebecca Block, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, Women & Criminal Justice Vol. 6 No. 2 1995 “I have read Dr. Heide's book, Why Kids Kill Parents, and believe it is the best available book on the topic…. Unlike the other books on this topic, Why Kids Kill Parents indicates a comprehensive knowledge of the prior literature and of the frequency and pattern of juvenile homicide. No other book covers etiology and treatment. Dr. Heide is a scientist, advocate, and clinician, and her book reflects all these perspectives.” – William Willbanks, Florida International University “In an unprecedented fashion, Kathleen Heide offers comprehensive definitions of childhood maltreatment that delineate the nature and scope of various types of abuse and neglect, which the adolescent parricide offender endures in a family where violence is all too common an experience…. This book is a must-read for all professionals who are involved in the care of and in contact with children and adolescents.” – Susan Crimmins, MSW, Clinical Social Worker and Researcher, Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice Vol. 9 No. 2 1993 “It is easy to see why this book has captured a commendable degree of media attention. It is well-written, fascinating in fact, so it is extremely interesting to read. Underlying this is a crucial observation, that Kathleen Heide's work has been well-received within legal, clinical, and other professional circles–that it has affected and is likely to have further implications for the way that adolescent parricide offenders are handled by the courts.” – Patricia Van Voorhis, Assistant Professor, University of Cincinnati
Chapter 3: Which Youths Kill
Which Youths Kill
FREDERIC WERTHAM (1941) was the first mental health professional to take an in-depth look at adolescent parricide. When he first met 15-year-old Gino in the hospital ward, the boy was being treated for a nasty hand cut. As he observed Gino, Wertham noted that “there was something immediately likeable about the boy, something direct and simple and honest.” When Wertham asked how he had cut himself, Gino replied “without fear or bravado—or regret” that the knife had slipped while he was killing his mother.
As a psychiatrist, Wertham wanted to know why Gino had stabbed his mother 32 times. Realizing that his knowledge of matricide was confined to the story of Orestes, Wertham reported that he turned to the libraries for ...