Researcher: Societal expectations stress mothers - FOX34 Lubbock

Researcher: Societal expectations stress mothers

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

A Lubbock mother was sentenced to 50 years in prison for taking her rage out on her one-year-old child, leading to his death.

Madison Rodriguez was 18 at the time and was fighting with her boyfriend.

Martha Smithey, an associate professor of sociology and criminology at Texas Tech studying mothers who kill their children, said in many cases, they do not mean to hurt their kids.

"The vast majority of child abuse or of mothers lethally injuring their children, and for that matter, males as well, is impulse crime," Smithey said. "It's an impulse homicide or an impulse assault."

In our society, Smithey said women are expected to raise their children in their spare time, with their spare change. This stress can overwhelm them, she said, leading them to do something they regret.

"What mothers do come to believe is that an upset child or difficult child, or stressful circumstance, or a failed marriage or living in a violent situation is the sign of a failing mother," Smithey said, "and being a mother is a core identity that we put into women whether they want it or not."

John Wuerflein, forensic interviewer and community educator for the Children's Advocacy Center, said if a parent is feeling stressed, it is important to take a step back.

"We can't expect a child to do the things we know how to do, because we at one time didn't know what to do," Wuerflein said, "and it's going to be hard for single parents, if they see the stressors, they may not recognize they're stressed out. They may not have anybody to talk to."

Having a family member or a friend to talk to or getting involved in a parenting class can make a difference, he said.

"You're not less of a parent if you go to a parenting class and say I don't know how to handle my child," he said. "I've done this, this and this, what else? That's a sign of a good parent wanting to help their child so they won't hurt their child in certain situations."

The center can refer young parents to counseling services or other resources to learn how to manage parenthood. One of these resources is The Parenting Cottage, a specialty organization. To learn more about the resources it offers, click here.

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