Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 151–165 | Cite as

Postpartum depression syndrome as a defense to criminal behavior

  • G. LaVerne Williamson


Though history records that women have suffered from PPD for centuries, little attention is directed to this serious malady in today's medical and legal communities. Medical research indicates that PPD is the result of the physical stress of pregnancy and childbirth, the social stress of the mothering role, or a combination of both. There are four phases of PPD: maternity blues, postnatal exhaustion, postnatal depression and puerperal psychosis. Victims of puerperal psychosis manifest bizarre behaviors — including the murder of their own children. Approximately 18 cases in the United States have involved the use of PPD as a defense to murder. British medical and legal authorities recognize PPD as a serious women's health issue, and as a viable insanity defense. Legal experts in the United States believe that the PPD defense will be used more frequently in this country. A review of the basic principles of the insanity defense supports the admission of this defense in legal proceedings.

Key words

postpartum depression insanity defense child abuse child murder 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. LaVerne Williamson
    • 1
  1. 1.University of GeorgiaAthens

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