Analyzing qualitative data from fourteen intensive interviews with mothers who fatally injured their infants, this article delineates the stages of the situated context of maternal infanticide. The data suggest that non-complying behaviors such as crying, difficulty in training, and prolonged illness by the infant challenged the mother's self-perception regarding mothering. Transactions are described that demonstrate the mother's failing attempts to comfort her infant and gain compliance. The article argues that the basis for the challenge to the mother's self-perception is the social institutionalization of motherhood norms that leaves the mother powerless to select alternative action or escape the frustrating encounter. It concludes that the infants in this study died as a result of the mother's inability to assuage her own pain produced by these failing attempts.
- Family violence
- Infant homicide