Tag Archives: Abusive Mom

Mothers More Likely To Be Abusive Than Fathers, Study Suggests

abusive mothers

Abusive Parents

We have already seen, from numerous other articles that I have published on this site, when a parent is abusive towards their child, the adverse psychological effects upon that child can be most profound, not least because such a child is being harmed by the very person who is supposed to care for, protect and nurture him/her; this constitutes a devastating betrayal, the psychological reverberations of which may, without effective therapy, endure for a lifetime and, even, considerably shorten the abused individual’s life expectancy.


Abusive Mothers

If questioned on the matter, most people would probably guess that fathers are more likely to act abusively towards their children than are mothers (in part because males are more likely, in general, to commit crime and are more likely to be violent). However, when maltreatment of children is being considered as a whole (taking into account mental/psychological/emotional abuse and neglect) the study outlined below suggests that, contrary, perhaps, to popular belief, mothers are more likely to abuse their children than are fathers.

abusive mothers

The Study

The study (conducted by the DHSS – the Department of Health and Human Services) showed that, in the cases of children who had been abused by one (as opposed to both) parents, 70.6 per cent reported having been abused by their mother and the remaining 29.4 per cent reported having been abused by their father. However, it should be pointed out that a caveat of the study concerns the fact that it is unclear from the data / statistics included whether or not the researchers controlled an important extraneous variable, namely that, in the case of single-parent families, the child or children are more likely to be in the custody of the mother rather than in the custody of the father. Clearly, if this factor was not taken account of by the statistical analysis of the data, it is likely that approximate 7:3 ratio derived from it (i.e. the ratio of abusive mothers : abusive fathers) is too heavily biased against mothers.

Nevertheless, it can at least be inferred that mothers make up a very significant proportion of parents who abuse their children – a fact that society, at the present time, is perhaps not ready to properly acknowledge.

Not all mothers are natural, instinctive care-givers to their children.



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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Types Of Mother Whose Parenting May Be Harmful

child trauma

The clinical psychologist, Poulter, has put forward the notion that there are five main types of mothers, each type with her own parenting style, some of which may be more psychologically damaging to their offspring than others. The five types of mother that Poulter identifies are as follows :

1) The unpredictable mother

2) The me-first mother

3) The perfectionist mother

4) The best-friend mother

5) The complete mother

Let’s look at each of these five types of mother in turn:

1) The unpredictable mother:

Unpredictable mothers suffer from mood instability and the way in which she interacts with her children will often mirror her moods. The children, because of this, are likely  frequently to experience anxiety about how she will react to them ; she may, for example, fly into an extreme rage directed against her children for the most trivial reasons, taking out her anger and frustrations on them when they do not deserve it.

Also, any discipline she tries to exert over her children will be inconsistent and haphazard. Overall, the living environment for children being brought up by such mothers will be chaotic.

The constant, unpredictable fluctuation in such a mother’s often highly intense emotions is likely to create for the children an unsettling and stressful environment in which to live.

2) The me-first mother:

Such mothers are self-absorbed and self-obsessed who wish constantly to be the center of attention and to be continually admired by others. She may take very little interest in her children’s lives, whilst expecting them to take a great interest in hers. If she bothers to plan activities involving her children, they are very likely to be activities that she enjoys rather than activities they enjoy.

An extreme type of me-first mother is the narcissistic mother, or, even, the sadistic narcissistic mother.

3) The perfectionist mother :

This type of mother tends to be over-controlling, making impossible demands of her children and expecting them to reach unobtainable standards. As one would expect, therefore, she also tends to be hypercritical of her children.

4) The best friend mother :

Such a mother has a deep fear of taking on the responsibilities of being a parent and so will act as her offspring’s equal, thus avoiding an obligation to set boundaries and instill discipline which, as she perceives the situation, would put her under intolerable pressure.

Such mothers tend to use their children to satisfy their own emotional needs, at the expense of the children’s own emotional needs. This behavior may include, for example, sharing inappropriate confidences with the child, such as difficulties in her sex life – this is similar behavior to that of mothers who parentify their children.

5) The complete mother :

Such a mother provides a stable, loving, supportive and nurturing environment for her child.

She is fully committed to motherhood and embraces the responsibilities it brings. She is emotionally balanced, makes her children feel safe and secure, is consistent and predictable in the way she interacts with her children and allows them to develop as individuals under her loving guidance.

According to Poulter, only about one in ten of the population is fortunate enough to have a mother of this particular type.

Now let’s look at the typical effects each of the above types of mother are liable to have on their offspring :

1) Typical efects on children of the unpredictable mother:

Such children are likely to grow into adults who feel unsafe and insecure and have problems developing trust. They are also likely to be at elevated risk of developing anxiety disorders, depression and other psychiatric conditions.

2) Typical effects on children of the me-first mother :

Children of this type of mother tend to grow up with unfulfilled needs and therefore become excessively dependent on others to fill their emotional void. They can also find decision – making difficult and be overly dependent upon meeting the approval of others.

3) Typical effects on children of the perfectionist mother :

Such children tend to grow into adults who have an oppressive sense of always being judged by others.

perfectionist mothers

4) Typical effects on children of the best friend mother :

Children of best friend mothers can grow up with a heightened fear of rejection, unfulfilled emotional needs and a sense of being underappreciated and unloved.

5) The effects on children of the complete mother:

Children fortunate to have such mothers have the best chance of developing into stable, emotionally secure, and generally successful adults.

An effective therapy for adult children of the first four types of mothers is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).




David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).



Characteristics Of Abusive Mothers


Abusive Mothers : What Are Their Characteristics?

It may come as a surprise to many, but, in the case of young children, mothers are more likely to physically abuse them than are fathers. This, of course, is partly due to the fact that mothers usually spend more time with young children than do fathers, which, in turn, means she is more likely than the father to experience child behaviours that, for whatever reason, frustrate and anger her.

Research has shown that abusive mothers are more likely to be isolated than are non-abusive mothers, with low levels of support from her family and from wider society and her community.

Due to this lack of support, she may turn to her own child for emotional sustenance (as was the case with my own mother when I was very young ; I would ‘counsel’ her and she sometimes referred to me as her ‘Little Psychiatrist’, as I have written about elsewhere. I repeat myself only to benefit visitors who are new to this site). Such mothers who use their children in this manner are said to ‘parentify’ them. (I have already published articles on ‘parentification‘ and its adverse effects upon the child).

Of course, it is impossible for a young child to perform this role completely adequately as s/he lacks the requisite emotional maturity and life experience.

Very sadly, this, in turn, can frustrate the mother to a degree that she becomes abusive (my own mother became so hostile towards me that I was forced to go and live with my father and step-mother when I was just thirteen years old. Again, I have written about this elsewhere and include the information again only for the reasons given above).


Other Common Characteristics Of Abusive Mothers:

– low self-esteemimages

– prone to depression

– frequent withdrawal from the child and prone to be ‘passive-aggressive’ (eg to subject their children to a sulky and brooding type of ‘silent treatment’. I have already published an article on the so-called ‘silent treatment‘.

– frequently uses outbursts of anger/rage to control their children

– shows children little affection (I cannot remember my own mother ever having hugged me – it felt rather like having a contagious disease; a highly infectious and potentially fatal one, at that).

– tends to have a low intellectual capacity which can mean she has a poor ability to reason with her children and to understand them

– tend to maximize their children’s perceived ‘faults’ but also to minimize/ignore their positive qualities

– rather than speak about the child’s possible ‘bad behaviour’ (as she perceives/judges it), she is likely to extrapolate from such behaviour (wrongly and unfairly) and call her child a ‘bad person.’

– tends to have a low frustration threshold and to be intensely over-sensitive to small annoyances young children may cause (my own mother could become apoplectic with rage if I inadvertently spilt a few grains of sugar in the course of making her a cup of coffee).

Possible Effects On Children Of The Abusive Mother:

Female children tend to internalize the adverse effects of an abusive mother’s behaviour towards them, and, as such, may :

– develop poor self-esteem

– develop poor social skills

– become prone to depression and anxiety

Male children, on the other hand, may both internalize and externalize the harmful effects of their mother’s treatment of them. As a result, they may:

– bully others

– be cruel to animals

– become physically aggressive/get into fist fights at school etc.

– indulge in vandalism

– indulge in stealing

– become prone to dishonesty (eg in an attempt to cover up anti-social behaviours)

– start associating with other children who may be regarded by some as a ‘bad crowd,’.

– develop poor social skills

– start to ‘play truant’ from school/ skip lessons

Of course, effects upon the child of having an abusive mother will vary according to the child’s genetic make-up and other aspects of his/her life (eg the effects of abuse may be reduced if the child has strong support from responsible others (eg school counsellors). Also, effects will vary, obviously, according to the level and duration of the abuse, together with the age of the child who is being subjected to the abuse.

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Childhood Trauma Recovery