January 24: A 26-year-old mother allegedly threw her two-year-old son down the stairs in south-east Delhi’s Pul Prahladpur. The infant sustained severe head and face injuries in the fall.
December 2016: A mother from east Delhi’s Geeta Colony allegedly dragged, kicked and beat up her one-and-a-half-year-old son till someone from the family rescued him.
Incidents such as these challenge the notion of mothers being the archetype of nurture and care. After all, how angry could a mother be to brutally beat up helpless young children? The answer lies in the social environment and relationships around these women.
Both the women in the two incidents mentioned above did not have cordial relationship with their in-laws. Experts say this could have triggered extreme stress, rejection and frustration.
“When a person is under extreme stress or feels dejected and frustrated, logic goes haywire. Even the most normal person can behave psychotic in such a situation. This is termed as ‘temporary insanity’,” said Dr Nimesh Desai, Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences.
Often, a woman caught in a failing marriage or living amid stressed family conditions, particularly with husband or in-laws, starts blaming the child for her misfortunes.
“Since the child has been born out of the marriage and that institution is what is getting her frustrated, she starts to symbolise the child as the cause of her problems,” Desai said.
The feeling of helplessness and frustration may also drive stressed women to vent the anger on children, who she knows are not strong enough to retaliate.
“The suppressed frustration is vented out on someone who is defenceless and can’t hit back. It is called the Freudian defence of displacement. A child can only cry. A baby is not strong enough to defend or retaliate and hence becomes an easy target,” Desai said.
Naveen Kumar, psychologist and trustee, Manas Foundation, said such an extreme reaction comes when stress levels reach saturation level.
“Such behaviour cannot be sudden. It happens when a person reaches a saturation point. It may be the result of personality issues as well but that can be determined only after a medical examination,” he said.