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Final Web Extension - Abuse can stem from Love

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…See children as the property of parents to do with as they will, Adult violence against children is a norm in our society. Problematically, for the most part feminist thinkers have never wanted to call attention to the reality that women are often the primary culprits in everyday violence against children simply because they are the primary parental caregivers.  Hooks

This quote from Bell Hook’s novel Feminism is for Everyone: Passionate Politics truly resonated with me and made me think about abuse in a new light. I didn't want to take Hook’s word for it that abuse specifically from women was “simply because they are the primary parental caregivers.” I knew there had to be more that goes into why mothers in particular abuse their children that their supposed to “love” unconditionally. However, what if their “unconditional love” is the very thing that the abuse stems from. Or what if love in a very dysfunctional; morbid way was why women in particular abused their children. The fact that love and abuse can coexist is very hard to believe being that they are two opposites but it exists. The idea of abuse and love is very much biased in the feminist sphere being that women are always viewed as the victims, the powerless and the ones subjected to abuse by men. Furthering the discussion from my last web event there is a power struggle that needs to be addressed within the dynamics of parenting and the reality is, that women aren’t always the victims. In fact they are sometimes the abusers.  This fact is one that many feminist thinkers fail to address or take note of when analyzing the dynamics of abuse. Children too are powerless beings that are subjected to abuse by women. But why do they do it? What gives them the itch to abuse their children? Why do they satisfy that itch although they know it’s wrong? What goes on in their heads? Or what is going on in our society that provokes it? All these questions were lingering in my head after I wrote my last web event and I will further explore in this one.

Mothers with a Psychological Disorder

            Psychologists have been researching for years how love and abuse can coexist in relationships specifically within a child and mother relationship. They have discovered that there really is no one answer to this question but there have been some women that are more likely to exhibit abuse onto their children than others. There are the narcissistic mothers and there are the mothers with psychological disorders (PTSD).  Both these types of mothers have purposely subjected harm, pain and/or pure abuse on to their children out of love. Either love for themselves, love for their own parents or love for their children.  Although this may seem quite bizarre, abuse can stem directly out of some form of love.

            An example of this is from the mothers that have PTSD.  PTSD mothers are "parents who misconstrue powerful forces as threatening both themselves and their children, thus responding with irrational protective measures “(Mercer).  These women take extreme actions to what they view as protecting their children from outside forces. They want to purify their children of evil or make sure that they aren’t exposed to it so they hold them hostage or deprive them from being with their friends and family. These mothers have experienced abuse in their childhood and don’t want the same to be done to their children so they take extreme measures in order to protect them. However, their form of protection is the very thing that becomes their children’s source of abuse. Some of these mothers in order to feel “less threatened, these parents may be drawn to belief systems that consider all or some human beings (for example adopted children) to be in herently evil” (Mercer). In their minds they are trying to purify these children from evil so they punish them in harsh ways in order to “teach “ them a lesson.  They sometimes also believe that in order to “prevent evil behavior, and that severe punishments such as confinement in cages, fasting, or heavy physical work are needed for this purpose” (Mercer).

            A specific example of this type of mother was reported in Canada in year 2004.

“Adoptive mother kept two well-developed boys in cages, tied them, diapered them, and beat them, even into their teenage years. The boys were released to go to school (where they did well academically), but returned home to the cages and diapers each day. The mother had been severely abused in childhood and in marriage, and was diagnosed with PTSD” (Mercer)

This heart wrenching case is the reality of two young children that grew up with abuse from their mother. However, through all the abuse psychologist say that she genuinely loved those children. “The inappropriate and harmful parenting behavior is not caused by indifference or hostility to the child” but rather love (Mercer). This may seem hard to believe but women that have gone through traumatic experience may not be able to let go of the experiences in their past and bring it into their children’s lives in present day. Out of love they stress their superiority over child guidance and support, which then in turn becomes abuse. One would think that if a woman has experienced abuse themselves that they wouldn't want to exhibit that pain on to their children. However, that isn’t always the case.

            Some mothers that suffer with PTSD project harm and abuse onto their children because they want to protect their own parents from their own anger. “ They say to themselves, in effect, that ‘if I’m just like them, who am I to criticize them” (Allen). Out of love for their own parents they have decided to do the same to their children to make excuses for what their parents did to them.  Some also think that in their minds that  “ ‘It was ok that you abused me because look how awful I am’” (Allen).

            Abuse can very much stem from love. In this case abusive mothers were abused by their parents and are yearning for an answer as to why they deserved the abuse. The only rational reason in their minds is by doing something just as terrible to finally be able to tell themselves that they deserved it.  This truly shows us that abuse and love can coexist.   


Narcissist Mothers

            The second type of woman is the narcissistic mother. There are about 6 different types of narcissistic mothers that Karyl McBride explores in her article The Six Faces of Maternal Narcissism that we’ll analyze in depth. However in general, these mothers use self-love as a way to abuse their children and fail to show any empathy. They are very focused on self-growth and empowerment that their children are nuisances. Some narcissistic mothers have children just for them to be an extension of themselves. They fail to treat their children with self-worth or like organic human beings that will grow into individuals. This in turn becomes abusive. “The narcissistic mother who criticizes and hides behind a veneer of martyrdom when her child needs her support is another common manifestation of a narcissistic parent” (The Narcissistic Parent). Children face neglect, emotional blackmail and physical abuse.

            The first type of narcissist is “The flamboyant- extrovert”: This type of mother is very work orientated and poses to the public as a very loving caring person who is loved by all. However, behind the scenes she’s the one who ignores her children and doesn’t care about their well-being.  Her main goal is her success not her children.

            The second type of narcissist is the “accomplishment-oriented”: These mother’s project their dreams that they never fulfilled on to their children. They expect nothing but greatness from their children and if that's not fulfilled then they verbally and sometimes physically abuse them.

            The third type of narcissist is the “psychosomatic”: The psychosomatic mother uses her illness or any form of sickness to manipulate her children. All their attention and time must be geared toward catering to her or her children are considered selfish and wrong to her. She chooses to only care about herself and not her children. Children of psychosomatic mothers lose out on a fruitful childhood because they spend it taking care of their mothers.

            The fourth type of narcissist is the “addict”: Addicts are the saddest case because they sometimes can’t help but put themselves over their children. They choose the drugs and the alcohol over their children at times. Children of addicts experience neglect, physical and sometimes sexual abuse when their mothers are under the influence (Goldman).

            The fifth type of narcissist is the “secretly mean”: These mothers are perhaps one of the most dangerous. She will in public be a loving and caring mother to her children and then at home will lash out with violence and rage. The novel A Child Called ‘It’ written by David Pelzer shares the story of David Pelzer living with his  “secretly mean narcissist” mother. In the novel he describes how loving his mother was to him in public and when at home she would isolate him from his brothers and beat and torture him. He also explains in his novel that he never knew when the switch would be turned on and off but he loved the “nice” and “caring” mother he had sometimes and was terribly afraid of the abusive one. 

            The sixth type of narcissist is the “emotionally needy”: This type of mother wants and needs her children to care and love her at all times. She yearns for their affection and that in turn becomes over bearing for a child to handle. These children also may be exhibiting love and affection to their mothers but don't seem to be getting it back in return.

            Narcissistic mothers come in various forms and the abuse exhibited from each type of mother varies in severity but ultimately it is still abuse.  The myth that abuse is only physical is false. Verbal and emotional abuse should be taken just as seriously as physical and sexual abuse. Due to the fact that all forms of abuse harm a child in a negative light. Most of these mothers have experienced the same behavior by their parents, which is why they are doing the same to their children. Unfortunately, the children of these mothers are having abuse done on to them due to the experiences their parents had. Sometimes, it’s lack of awareness and knowledge on how to even raise a child, which is why mothers abuse their children. For example, “some studies have found that mothers who physically abuse their children have both more negative and higher than normal expectations of their children, as well as less understanding of appropriate developmental norms” (Goldman). From lack of awareness and knowledge of how to appropriately raise a child it results in abuse from frustration and impatience. However, is there not love within these relationships? Some of these women love their children so much that in their minds they are doing the right thing by pressing their opinions and ideals onto their children. Some of these women love themselves more than they love their children and use their children to fulfill their own dreams. In all, the abuse that these children endure came from love. It may not have always been love for them, but nevertheless it was love.

Sylvia Plath’s narcissism

            Sylvia Plath, a well-known poet was criticized for being a narcissist throughout her life. Thomas Larson writes in his article, Review: Bitter Fame: The Life of Sylvia Plath." that Plath spent a lot of her life putting the blame on everyone else for her sorrows instead of herself.  She never once self reflected but instead used her poetry as a mode to express her “meanness” (Larson). However, in some senses she’s expressed her true emotions in different forms that may speak to why individuals view her as a narcissist.

I do not love; I do not love anybody except myself. That is a rather shocking thing to admit. I have none of the selfless love of my mother. I have none of the plodding, practical love . . . . . I am, to be blunt and concise, in love only with myself, my puny being with its small inadequate breasts and meager, thin talents. I am capable of affection for those who reflect my own world. – Sylvia Plath   (Lopez)

Plath expressed her self-love publicly as she almost brags in this excerpt about how much she loves herself and can’t find it in heart to love anyone else more. In Plath’s case she admits that her mother was very much loving and “selfless” while she is the opposite. Even up to her death it is criticized as a very “narcissistic act” (Lopez).  As Plath’s two children laid to sleep she stuck her head in the oven (Lopez). She made sure “to have sealed off their rooms with towels so that the fumes wouldn’t consume them too” (Lopez).  What Plath thought was very thoughtful can be described by some as outright selfish. All she could do was think of herself and her feelings and now as a result her children will be only left with a memory of her.


             Abuse can stem from love.  These mothers that have suffered trauma themselves and are now projecting it on to their children is heartbreaking but a reality that we need to recognize. Feminists need not ignore the abuse that women project onto their children but rather embrace it in order to work toward ending abuse done by the powerful to the powerless. Child abuse doesn't occur just in “bad” families or poor families. “It crosses all racial, economic and cultural lines” (Goldman). Countering what Bell Hook’s stated in the quote I used to open up the essay that  “that women are often the primary culprits in everyday violence against children simply because they are the primary parental caregivers.”  That isn’t nearly the case at all. Women are “culprits of everyday violence against children” because they too have experienced abuse, trauma or suffer from being narcissistic. Their children are the targets to let out their anger, pain and frustration.  Due to the fact that children are their “property” as explored in my previous web event it is more acceptable for parents to exhibit harm or verbal abuse onto their children because now instead of women being the powerless they hold all the power from “simply” being their mothers. When will the power struggle end?

Works Citied:

 Allen, David M. "The Family Dynamics of Severe Child Abuse." Psychology Today. N.p., 2 Nov. 2011. Web. 14 Dec. 2013. <>. 

Goldman, J. Salus, M. K. Wolcott, and D. Kennedy. "A Coordinated Response to Child Abuse and Neglect: The Foundation for Practice." Chapter Five: What Factors Contribute to Child Abuse and Neglect? N.p., 2003. Web. 15 Dec. 2013. <>.

Larson, Thomas. "Review: Bitter Fame: The Life of Sylvia Plath." Thomas Larson. San Diego Union-Tribune, 6 Oct. 1989. Web. 14 Dec. 2013. <>.

Lopez, Cyndi. "Narcissistic Mothers | Psych Central." Psych N.p.,2010. Web. 14 Dec. 2013. <>.

McBride, Karyl. "The Six Faces of Maternal Narcissism." Psychology Today. N.p., 14 Mar. 2011. Web. 14 Dec. 2013. <>.

Mercer, Jean. "Child Abuse: Why Do They Do It?" Psychology Today. N.p., 22 Oct. 2009. Web. 14 Dec. 2013. <>.

"The Narcissistic Parent - LIGHT'S HOUSE." The Narcissistic Parent - LIGHT'S HOUSE. N.p.,n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2013. <>.