Startling facts about infanticide and mothers

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A disturbing, but unsurprising, article on infanticide has appeared in a recent issue of Science Daily (12-13-10: "Unlawful Killing of Newborns Soon After Birth Five Times Higher Than Thought, French Court Study Suggests.")

The technical term for this is neonaticide - the killing of a baby within the first 24 hours of life. Research published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood indicates that the frequency of neonaticide in certain regions of France, where the research was focused, was five times higher than official estimates had anticipated.

We have all read about the horrific levels of infanticide, especially female infanticide, in some developing countries, and have been more or less told this is due to backward social conditions in such "semi-feudal" areas. So to find that even in bourgeois France, an advanced industrial country, there can be five times the amount of neonaticide as officially predicted is an eye opener. And while there can be no doubt that the status of women and social context are major factors, this just indicates that that the "first world" should not be complacent in thinking that infanticide is especially a problem of so-called "backward" societies.

The authors of the study themselves have concluded that, contrary to expectations, it is not low social status or noticeable mental problems that are responsible for these killings in French society, but, rather, it is "low maternal self-esteem and emotional immaturity" that is responsible. These are factors having to do with the status of women and their treatment in general, not only in "semi-feudal" countries, but also those of advanced capitalism.

Simone de Beauvoir pointed out long ago, in "The Second Sex," that "there is no such thing as maternal 'instinct': the word does not in any case apply to the human species. The mother's attitude is defined by her total situation and by the way she accepts it."

Going over the profiles of women who had killed their newborns, the researchers discovered "that the perception of a young poor, unemployed, single woman as the culprit was not borne out by the evidence." The women were mostly around 26 years old, had other children, did not show evidence of mental problems, had no record of being abused as children, and had regular jobs. Half of them were living with the baby's father.

They shared a common low level of self-esteem (something you can get by the way you are treated by others), emotional immaturity (also a state contributed to by others including the society's depiction of the female) and a fear of being abandoned (definitely the product of a bad-faith relationship on the part of the other creating an atmosphere of dependency).

The authors write: "Feeling very much alone, and for nearly half of them, depressed, [these women] probably did not have complete control over their lives or their sexuality." It not only takes a village to raise a child, it seems, it takes one to kill one as well.

The authors conclude, "Our findings suggest that preventive action, targeting only young, poor, unemployed and single women, or women in pregnancy denial, may not be appropriate."

I also think we Marxists can conclude something from this study. We can conclude, with Simone de Beauvoir, that "only a balanced, healthy woman, conscious of her responsibilities, is capable of becoming a 'good mother.'" The same, ceteris paribus (all other things being equal), for the father. And what type of society are these good mothers and fathers most likely to flourish in? Madame de Beauvoir's suggestion seems correct to me: "A truly socialist ethic - one that seeks justice without restraining liberty, one that imposes responsibilities on individuals but without abolishing individual freedom - will find itself most uncomfortable with problems posed by woman's condition."

Photo: iandeth CC 2.0 

 

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  • Because, *gasp*, there are people of asian ancestry living in France!

    Posted by Maximilian Hyland, 12/21/2010 11:37am (4 years ago)

  • Some students of human behavior have concluded that neonaticide, because it is so rampant and has existed for such a long time, is a form of last ditch method of contraception resorted to by some woman with little or no access to less desperate forms of family planning.
    As a Marxist I would concentrate on making public, medical VTP available to ALL women in any given society. I live in France and, although the French health care system is better than a non-existant universal USA health care system, the French government under Nicholas Sarko$y has been responsible for the lowering of health care standards to degrees unheard of since the end of World War 2.
    Would any woman in her right mind prefer neonaticide over a VTP in a regular medical facility?
    Of course not.
    Sorko$y has been closing down medical facitlities left and right. Women in France are having a harder time in 2011 than in 1980 accessing Family Planning and public VTP medical facilities.
    That is the reality I would deal with as a Marxist and as a daughter of Simone de Bouvoir.

    Posted by Lares Revolt, 12/20/2010 12:41am (4 years ago)

  • "We have all read about the horrific levels of infanticide, especially female infanticide, in some developing countries, and have been more or less told this is due to backward social conditions in such "semi-feudal" areas. So to find that even in bourgeois France, an advanced industrial country, there can be five times the amount of neonaticide as officially predicted is an eye opener. And while there can be no doubt that the status of women and social context are major factors, this just indicates that that the "first world" should not be complacent in thinking that infanticide is especially a problem of so-called "backward" societies."

    Then how come the mother and baby in the photo paired with a FRENCH infanticide story are Asian?

    Posted by Trailer Trash, 12/16/2010 6:51pm (4 years ago)

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