2006 issue 1


Volume 15, issue 1

Case report

Forensic psychiatric expertise concerning parents who administered corporeal punishment as a child-rearing method - case report

Danuta Hajdukiewicz1
1. Klinika Psychiatrii Sądowej Instytutu Psychiatrii i Neurologii w Warszawie
Postępy Psychiatrii i Neurologii 2006; 15 (1): 51-56
Keywords: family violence, parental personality


Objectives. In view of increasing family violence, reflected also in forensic psychiatric opinions, a case is presented of physical punishment used by parents as a child-rearing method, with dramatic consequences.

Case. A young unmarried couple were accused of maltreating for over two years their son aged six and a half. Moreover, the concubine was accused of battering the boy to death, while his father was accused that he had not stopped the beating, but consented to it, left the flat abandoning his son in a situation involving a direct threat to the boy 's life, and had not provided medical assistance to the boy in appropriate time. It seems that personality traits of both the parents played a crucial role: the father was submissive to his obviously dominating concubine, who regarded corporeal punishment as an effective child-rearing method, even for petty offences. The father 's personality was assessed as not quite mature, he was egocentric and lacking self-confidence, had difficulties in decision-making, and was sensitive to other people's opinions (including that of his concubine). According to psychological assessment, the concubine manifested features of abnormality in her personality development. Forensic experts did not take under consideration a possibility of an organic personality disorder in her case. In both parents a high level of intellectual competence was found, and no symptoms of mental disorders or other disturbances in their mental functioning were diagnosed, hence there were no grounds to doubt their accountability for the deeds they had been accused of.

Commentary. The reported example indicates that family violence can be used by persons free of mental illness and mental retardation symptoms, with no substance dependence, and functioning in responsible social and professional roles. In this specific case the parents' personality traits played the crucial role.

Address for correspondence:
Dr Danuta Hajdukiewicz, Klinika Psychiatrii Sądowej Instytutu Psychiatrii i Neurologii, ul. Sobieskiego 9, O2-957 Warszawa