Monday, March 7, 2011

Jealousy, rage and murder

jealousy, rage and murder
In a jealous rage a Pune immigrant murdered his family - wife and two daughters - with an axe. He then attempted suicide. He suspected his wife of infidelity.

Evolution of jealousy

As with socio-sexuality, jealousy has an evolutionary basis that arises out of natural selection (Harris, 2003). Sexual jealousy drives males to guard against cuckoldry thereby ensuring that a rivals genes are not passed on through their mate. Emotional jealousy drives females to ensure her mates continued investment in her own offspring.

Psychodynamics of jealousy, rage and murder

  • Freud showed morbid jealousy to be the deepest form of paranoia. His analysis indicated use of the defense mechansims of denial and projection to protect against threatening homosexual impulses - I do not love him—she (a wife, lover) loves him. Othello struggled with jealousy until he murdered Desdemona and then committed suicide.
  • Murder or homicide can be understood as rage directed externally while suicide is rage directed inwards. Suicide is thus an inverted homicide (Menninger 1938). This argument is supported by the similarity in characteristics of perpetrators of murder-suicide and those of persons who commit only suicide (Palermo 1997).

Family murder-suicide by males

The jealous male resorts to spouse abuse. The resulting screams are usually ignored by society. If the woman has some independence repeated incidents may result in splitting from her partner. Here again her children may be used as hostages to keep her compliant. It is rare for the morbidly jealous male to be brought for psychiatric evaluation without some external coercion. The tragedy of a family murder-suicide is that its indicators are ignored by the family's society.
  • Wife murders are commonly based on jealousy and suspicion of infidelity. Dr O Somasundaram (1970) showed that 30% of ‘The men who kill their wives’ were cases of sexual jealousy and 10% had delusional jealousy.  
  • When the children are suspected to be those of the paramour, paternity testing through DNA samples is sought at Hyderabad. Or the children could also be put to death along with their mother. 
  • Family murder followed by suicide of the assailant is significantly associated with morbid jealousy in upto a quarter of cases (Goldney 1977, Adinkrah 2008).

How does morbid jealousy manifest in women?

  • The newly wed woman who turns jealous is tormented by her suspicions. At this stage the delusion is not yet fixed. The process of paranoia is not entrenched. The woman is aghast at her own attraction towards other males. She struggles to conceal her thoughts and impulses. Freud’s analysis of the process of morbid jealousy is rendered explicit. When she musters the courage to confront him the caring spouse will seek psychiatric consultation if it is available.
  • The slightly less caring husband will seek psychiatric consultation for his delusional spouse when it affects his work. She has tried private investigators and other sources to identify the paramour and to check his mobile phone records. At this stage she may also consult with a psychiatrist to recruit his help against her husband. Her husband is alarmed only when his boss or a female colleague is entreated to join cause in the search for his paramour.
  • The least caring spouse will try to beat the suspicions out of her. However, by their very nature the delusions are strengthened with each blow. She may then herself seek psychiatric help for her emotional problems or may be referred for the same after treatment for physical abuse. The morbidly jealous woman may also beat her partner.(Stuart, Moore et al., 2006).

Underlying mental illness is apparent before the family murder-suicide

  1. Adinkrah M. Husbands who kill their wives: an analysis of uxoricides in contemporary Ghana. Int J Offender Ther Comp Criminol. 2008 Jun;52(3):296-310. Epub 2007 Oct 8.
  2. Freud S. Psychoanalytic notes upon an autobiographical account of a case of paranoia (dementia paranoides). In Standard Edition of the Complete Work of Sigmund Freud, vol 12. Hogarth Press, London, 1966.
  3. Goldney RD. Family murder followed by suicide. Forensic Sci. 1977 May-Jun;9(3):219-28.
  4. Harris CR. A review of sex differences in sexual jealousy, including self-report data, psychophysiological responses, interpersonal violence, and morbid jealousy. Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2003;7(2):102-28. Erratum in: Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2003;7(4):400. Comment in:Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2005;9(1):62-75; discussion 76-86.
  5. Menninger K. 1938. Man Against Himself. New York: Harcourt, Brace.
  6. Palermo GB, Smith MB, Jenzten JM, Henry TE, Konicek PJ, Peterson GF, Singh RP, Witeck MJ. Murder-suicide of the jealous paranoia type: a multicenter statistical pilot study. Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 1997 Dec;18(4):374-83.
  7. Somasundaram O. The men who kill their wives. Indian J Psychiatry 1970;12:125.
  8. Stuart GL, Moore TM, Gordon KC, Hellmuth JC, Ramsey SE, Kahler CW. Reasons for intimate partner violence perpetration among arrested women. Violence Against Women. 2006 Jul;12(7):609-21.