When a child is harmed, parents frequently experience condemnation and blame from others. This blame is amplified online. Our online worlds reflect our offline ones, and this negative atmosphere toward parents can influence both parents themselves and societal expectations for parents. Previous research on parental blame has either directly asked people about their blame attributions or utilized hypothetical vignettes. Our thematic analysis expands on this research by analyzing unsolicited online comments left on news stories about two, real-world incidents of child harm: A child who fell into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, and a child who was killed by an alligator at Walt Disney World. We aimed to understand (1) What are people’s views and opinions of the parents of the child victims? and (2) Do these views and opinions differ between the CZ and DW events? Our results show three similar themes between these incidents: It Wouldn’t Happen to Me, Parenting Abilities and Actions, and Support, and two themes which differed between the incidents: Qualified blame/Sympathy and Punishment. The position of these findings within the parent blame literature, posited theoretical bases, and potential implications of this study are discussed within.


trauma, parent blame, thematic analysis, cyber bullying

Author Bio(s)

Kelsi Toews University of Saskatchewan Please direct correspondence to kelsi.toews@usask.ca. Dr. Toews completed her Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the University of Saskatchewan.

Jorden A. Cummings University of Saskatchewan Please direct correspondence to jorden.cummings@usask.ca. Dr. Cummings is a Professor in the department of Psychology & Health Studies at the University of Saskatchewan.

Michelle McLean University of Alberta Please direct correspondence to michelle.mclean@ualberta.ca. She is a doctoral candidate in counselling psychology at the University of Alberta.

Laura Knowles University of Saskatchewan Please direct correspondence to laura.knowles@usask.ca. She completed her undergraduate honours degree in psychology at the University of Saskatchewan.

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