Maternal Negativity and Child Maltreatment: How evolutionary perspectives contribute to a layered and compassionate understanding

In Western culture most people believe that mothers evolved to love all of their children instinctually and unconditionally. In contrast, any mother who feels ambivalence or hostility towards her child is typically seen as unnatural, and a mother who maltreats her child is seen as behaving pathologically. This chapter draws on evolutionary research to challenge this widespread view of motherhood. The goal is to foster a more evolutionarily valid, nuanced and compassionate understanding. Such an understanding has the potential to contribute to clinical work with faltering mothers and also to programmes focused on preventing maternal maltreatment of children.

Maternal negativity and the Archetypal Death Mother: Evolutionary and psychodynamic approaches

In this conversation I discuss various factors which can contribute to a mother feeling negatively about her child. In particular, I describe some of the challenges that ancestral mothers faced throughout human evolution and how these impact us today. I also explore ideas about the archetypal Death Mother, inspired by the late Jungian analyst, Marion Woodman. I found it a rich and rewarding conversation and am grateful to John Wilks and Our Birth Journey Professionals for the opportunity.

Confronting Death Mother – An Interview with Marion Woodman

Marion Woodman was pivotal in forging an awareness of the Death Mother, and the life-denying impact this force has on both bodies and minds. In this powerful interview, Woodman shares her understanding, drawing on Jungian thought, literature, and also her personal experience both as an analyst and as a woman facing her own internalised Death Mother.