Mothers Accused and Abused: Addressing Complex Psychological Needs brings together stories about mothers who are accused of harming, and in some cases killing, their children, children who subsequently harm or kill others and the challenges to professionals who work with them.

Contributors consider the deeply rooted cycles of neglect and abuse manifested in the childhoods of mothers, who only come to our attention when their extreme distress is expressed through their actions. By recognising the long-standing, unmet dependency needs of abused and neglected women, the book argues that longer term engagement can prevent a seemingly endless repetition of court hearings and imprisonment, and thereby address cycles of neglect.


With sections on mothers in prison and interventions following child care proceedings, Mothers Accused and Abused will be a valuable resource to those working in the criminal and civil justice systems, social work and mental health as well as others who, in a professional or personal capacity, encounter troubled mothers and their children.

chapter |8 pages


part one|2 pages

Setting the scene

chapter 1|5 pages

Mother, madonna, whore: understanding perverse mothering

Reflections on a ground-breaking book

chapter 3|4 pages

Mothers and the law

Mythologies and stereotypes – a woman’s lot?

part two|2 pages

The pain of relationships lived and re-lived

chapter 4|9 pages

Infanticide, matricide or suicide

chapter 5|19 pages

Treating violent men

The significance of the mother–son relationship

chapter 6|14 pages

Staff accused and abused

Managing anxiety, pain and distress in systems of care

part three|2 pages

Mothers in prison

chapter 9|17 pages

Cover stories

Art psychotherapy with mothers in prison who have killed or harmed their children

part four|2 pages

Interventions following child care proceedings

chapter 10|10 pages

Last chance saloon

From repetition to growth, a young mother’s journey in brief psychotherapy

chapter 11|13 pages

Better outcomes and better justice

The Family Drug and Alcohol Court

chapter 12|12 pages

The mother in mind

A therapeutic group for mothers who have had a child removed from their care

chapter 13|3 pages

Taking a break

The work of Pause

part five|2 pages

Ways forward