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Mothers Who Hurt Their Children

Mom knows best - right?

It must be true... A mother knows what's best for her children. Who isn't for motherhood and apple pie? It's reinforced in our literature, movies, books, our laws, our religion. Mom knows best. There is no love greater than that of a mother for her children.

A Mother's Love

A Mother's love is something that no one can explain,
It is made of deep devotion and of sacrifice and pain,
It is endless and unselfish and enduring come what may
For nothing can destroy it or take that love away . . .
It is patient and forgiving when all others are forsaking,
And it never fails or falters even though the heart is breaking . . .
It believes beyond believing when the world around condemns,
And it glows with all the beauty of the rarest, brightest gems . . .
It is far beyond defining, it defies all explanation,
And it still remains a secret like the mysteries of creation . . .
A many splendoured miracle man cannot understand
And another wondrous evidence of God's tender guiding hand.

- Helen Steiner Rice -

Our governments, schools, churches, courts bend over backwards to protect and support the rights of mothers. Mothers are encouraged and empowered to home school their children, diagnose their illnesses, control their activities, choose their friendships, dictate their living conditions, even select their religion.

Parenthood isn't easy and many mothers do an excellent job of what is a very challenging assignment...

But not all.


How Common is Child Abuse?

In the US, an estimated 903,000 children (1.2% of all children) were victims of abuse and neglect in 2001. 19% of reported and substantiated child abuse cases result in the child being removed from the home.

Form of Abuse Percentage
Neglect (including medical neglect) 57.2%
Physical Abuse 18.6%
Sexual Abuse 9.6%
Other Maltreatment 26.6%

Source: US Department of Health and Human Services Child Maltreatment Report 2001

Percentages of victims are similar for males and females (48.0% and 51.5% respectively).

Children in the age group of birth to 3 years account for 27.7% of victims. Victimization percentages decline as age increases.

Child Abuse Victims by Ethnicity Percentage
White 50.2%
African-American 25.0%
Hispanic 14.5%
American Indian & Alaska Native 2.0%
Asian Pacific Islander 1.3%

Source: US Department of Health and Human Services Child Maltreatment Report 2001

Child Abuse Fatalities by Industrialized Country and US State

Child fatalities from abuse is more prevalent in the US than in other industrialized nations and there is significant variation state by state.

Chart of Child Fatality Prevalence by Industrialized Nation Chart - Child Fatility Prevalence by US State

Source: BBC News Article, October 17, 2011 "America's child death shame"

Child Neglect

Children are the most vulnerable to neglect, and child neglect is by far the most common form of child abuse recorded in the US, accounting for 71% of reported cases in 2008:

Child Maltreatment Statistics

See Larger Chart

Source: US Department of Health and Human Services Child Maltreatment Report 2008


Who Is Abusing the Kids?

The answer may surprise you. It is most commonly not the proverbial "stranger" that most children are warned to avoid - it is more likely to be someone much closer to home:

Child Maltreatment Statistics

See Larger Chart

  • 40.5% of all child abuse is committed solely by biological mothers
  • 17.7% of all child abuse is committed solely by biological fathers
  • 19.3% of child abuse is committed by both the mother and the father
  • 6.4% of child abuse is committed by the mother and some other individual
  • 1.0% of child abuse is committed by the father and some other individual
  • 11.9% is committed by someone other than the parents
  • 3.1% is committed by an unknown or missing perpetrator.

Source: US Department of Health and Human Services Child Maltreatment Report 2001


Examples of Common Dysfunctional Traits

Here are some examples of some dysfunctional maternal traits that are common among mothers who suffer from personality disorders. Click on the links for more information about each trait or Click Here for more Common Traits of People who Suffer from Personality Disorders.

Blaming - The practice of identifying a person or people responsible for creating a problem, rather than identifying ways of dealing with the problem.

Bullying - Any systematic action of hurting a person from a position of relative physical, social, economic or emotional strength.

Emotional Blackmail - A system of threats and punishments used in an attempt to control someone’s behaviors.

Engulfment - An unhealthy and overwhelming level of attention and dependency on another person, which comes from imagining or believing one exists only within the context of that relationship.

False Accusations - Patterns of unwarranted or exaggerated criticism directed towards someone else.

Favoritism - Favoritism is the practice of systematically giving positive, preferential treatment to one child, subordinate or associate among a family or group of peers.

Gaslighting - The practice of brainwashing or convincing a mentally healthy individual that they are going insane or that their understanding of reality is mistaken or false. The term “Gaslighting” is based on the 1944 MGM movie “Gaslight”.

Infantilization - Treating a child as if they are much younger than their actual age.

Mood Swings - Unpredictable, rapid, dramatic emotional cycles which cannot be readily explained by changes in external circumstances.

Munchausen's and Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome - A disorder in which an individual repeatedly fakes or exaggerates medical symptoms in order to manipulate the attentions of medical professionals or caregivers.

Objectification - The practice of treating a person or a group of people like an object.

Parental Alienation Syndrome - When a separated parent convinces their child that the other parent is bad, evil or worthless.

Parentification - A form of role reversal, in which a child is inappropriately given the role of meeting the emotional or physical needs of the parent or of the family’s other children.

Perfectionism - The maladaptive practice of holding oneself or others to an unrealistic, unattainable or unsustainable standard of organization, order, or accomplishment in one particular area of living, while sometimes neglecting common standards of organization, order or accomplishment in other areas of living.

Projection - The act of attributing one's own feelings or traits to another person and imagining or believing that the other person has those same feelings or traits.

Push-Pull - A chronic pattern of sabotaging and re-establishing closeness in a relationship without appropriate cause or reason.

Raging, Violence and Impulsive Aggression - Explosive verbal, physical or emotional elevations of a dispute that are disproportionate to the situation at hand.

Scapegoating - Singling out an individual or group for unmerited negative treatment or blame.

Shaming - The difference between blaming and shaming is that in blaming someone tells you that you did something bad, in shaming someone tells you that you are something bad.


US Child Custody Statistics

Many people believe that mothers are naturally better caregivers than fathers. And the US courts seem to agree. US Divorce Statistics show that a divorcing mother is 7 times more likely to retain sole custody of her children than a father:

USA 1990 Custody Statistics (19 States reporting) Percentage
Sole possession granted to mother 72.5%
Sole possession granted to father 10.3%
Joint possession 15.7%
Possession granted to other person(s) 1.4%

Source: http://www.divorcepeers.com/stats17.htm

Fathers, who want to protect their children from an abusive mother, are sometimes afraid to take legal action because they fear:

  • Facing ridicule or disbelief from police or social services.
  • Losing all contact with their children at the hands of a gender-biased legal system
  • Facing steep legal costs.
  • Facing abuse themselves at the hands of the perpetrator
  • Being judged by their communities, families and friends.

Child Support Statistics

When it comes to child support, US census data indicates that:

  • 79.6% of custodial mothers receive a child support award
  • 29.9% of custodial fathers receive a child support award

US census data also indicates that fathers are more likely to fulfil their child support obligations than mothers:

  • 43% of moms required to pay child support are "deadbeat moms" - i.e. they default on 100% of the money they owe,
  • 32% of dads required to pay child support are "deadbeat dads" - i.e. they default on 100% of the money they owe.

One of the reasons that "deadbeat dads" get most of the bad press in the popular media is that there are a lot more of them - primarily for 2 reasons:

  • There are 7 times more fathers than mothers who do not have primary custody of the children.
  • Fathers are 3 times more likely than mothers to be ordered to pay child support than their female counterparts.

Source: 2002 Fox News Article


Qualifications for becoming a Mother

So who really does know best?

In the US, there are laws to protect all sorts of individuals from reckless behavior of others. For example, you must pass an exam before you may:

  • Drive a car,
  • Fly a plane
  • Operate a crane
  • Run a restaurant
  • Educate school children
  • Become a social worker or any kind of therapist
  • Diagnose an ailment or prescribe, dispense or administer any kind of medicine or medical treatment

But there is no qualification for becoming a Mother other than being female. Nor is there any review of your performance except in the most severe cases of physical violence and neglect.

When it comes to your treatment of strangers you may be prosecuted for:

  • hitting
  • slandering
  • harassing
  • stalking
  • invading their privacy
  • confiscating their property

When it comes to treatment of minors, parents are held almost completely unaccountable. Minor children of abusive parents are completely trapped in their environment - dependent totally on an overwhelmed legal system to take action - after the abuse has been witnessed and reported by a neighbor, teacher, doctor or social worker. Many cases go unreported.


The Role of Religion In Child Abuse

Most popular religions extol the virtues of being obedient and loyal to parents.

“Honor thy father and thy mother:that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”

- Exodus -

“He who wisheth to enter Paradise at the best door must please his father and mother.

- Prophet Muhammad -

While teachings like this make sense when a child is learning to accept the discipline and wisdom of a benevolent parent, there are situations where a lack of intervention or a maintenance of the biological family status quo is neither wise nor loving for a child - nor for the abusive parent.

However, most of the ancient sacred scriptures and modern religious organizations do not discriminate between parents who are loving and nurturing and parents who are abusive.

Children are repeatedly told that they are never supposed to hate, resent, criticize, disregard or abandon their parents. Instead they are reminded to honor them, obey them, cherish them, be loyal to them and take care of them in their old age.

This sends a confusing mixed-message to children who grow up in abusive homes. They can see the contradictions for themselves in the actions of an abusive parent - and often know that something is wrong about that. However, they will often be afraid to speak out to another adult, say anything negative about their parent or seek help for fear that they will be seen as "bad".

It's common for these children to reject their childhood religion in adulthood which they judge to have failed them, sustained the abusive parent and perpetuated the cycle of abuse.

By emphasizing the sanctity of marriage and traditional family roles, many religions discourage spouses of abusers - many of whom are victims themselves - from taking action to remove their children.


What Happens When the Children Grow Up?

What is surprising to many is that child abuse often extends long into adulthood although it often takes a more emotional,psychological or subtle form as children become physically stronger and more economically independent.

Adult children of abusive parents often feel trapped between maintaining an unhealthy relationship with an aging, yet disrespectful, stalking, slandering, harassing parent and being judged by extended family, friends and acquaintances if they choose to cut off all contact with the abusive parent.

Adult children of abusive parents are at increased risk of making poor personal, relationship and career choices in adulthood.

Abusive parents sometimes see things like relationships, career and outside interests of their young adult children as threats and may seek to undermine them.

Adult survivors of child abuse ultimately suffer in three distinct ways:

  1. They suffer the abuse itself
  2. They suffer the loss of knowing what should have been - the loss of a supportive parent, of a loving home and a safe refuge.
  3. They suffer the consequences of protecting themselves from that abuse. They are often left feeling guilty, judged, condemned by society, religion, their communities and their families.

Support for Unchosen's

There is a section of our Support Forum dedicated to supporting people who find themselves in Unchosen Relationships - relationships with family members, parents, siblings who suffer from personality disorders.

Click here for more recommended Links for those in Unchosen Relationships


For More Information & Support...

If you suspect you may have a family member or loved-one who suffers from a personality disorder, we encourage you to learn all you can and surround yourself with support as you learn how to cope.

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