Upcoming Events

Maltreating Mothers:

Evolutionary insights can foster compassion and contribute to prevention

Keynote address: The Compassionate Mind Foundation Conference.

12th October, 2022, 9.30-10.30am, Edinburgh and on-line


In Western culture, both the lay public and mental health professionals tend to believe that mothers evolved to love all their children instinctually and unconditionally. In contrast, any mother who feels ambivalent or hostile towards her child is typically seen as unnatural, and a mother who maltreats her child is seen as behaving pathologically.

In this presentation I will draw on evolutionary research to challenge this widespread view of motherhood.

In particular, I will explain how, throughout human evolutionary history, raising children has required mothers to negotiate a series of complex trade-offs, and argue that maternal negativity can sometimes arise from this.

I will also discuss how the evolved pressure to conform to group norms can drive mothers to maltreat their children.

Finally, I will describe how children have evolved to learn about mothering from what they experience whilst growing up, and argue that this can tragically lead to patterns of maltreatment being passed down generations.

The goals of this presentation are (1) to foster a more evolutionarily valid and compassionate understanding of motherhood, and (2), to show how this understanding can contribute to both clinical work with faltering mothers, and to programs focused on preventing the maltreatment of children by their mothers.

A Selection of Past Talks by Subject

Emotional Trauma and its Healing

How to understand and heal emotional trauma

Public Lecture, Royal Society of Arts, London

Transforming trauma in psyche and body

Plenary Lecture, Pacifica Graduate Institute, California, USA

Trauma-worlds and their transformation

The Embodiment Conference, On-line

The Dynamics of Toxic Shame

The archetypal Death Mother / Death Parent as the nursemaid of toxic shame

  • CG Jung Public Lectures, Bristol, UK.
  •  Irish Association of Jungian Analysts

Maternal Negativity, Child Maltreatment & Early Relational Trauma

Maternal negativity and child maltreatment: Evolutionary perspectives

  • Keynote address, Royal College of Psychiatry, UK
  • Keynote address Compassionate Mind Foundation (upcoming)

Maternal ambivalence, attachment & early relational trauma: Evolutionary and anthropological perspectives

  • Clinical Forum, The Bowlby Center, London, UK
  • Scientific Meeting, Tavistock and Portman Trust, Tavistock Clinic, London, UK.
  • CONFER CPD module: on the ‘Application of attachment theory to psychotherapy’. 

The Archetypal Death Mother / Death Parent

The archetypal Death Mother as nature’s shadow: Infanticide in human history

  • Public Lecture, C.G. Jung Club, London, UK.
  • C.G Jung Public Lectures, Bristol, UK.
  • Cambridge Jungian Circle.

The archetypal Death Mother / Parent as the nursemaid of toxic shame

  • CG Jung Public Lectures, Bristol, UK
  • Irish association of Jungian analysts

How to Understand and Heal Emotional Trauma

Public Lecture, Royal Society of Arts (RSA), London.

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