Study: Some Women Born to Be Bad Mothers

~Jennifer - posted on 03/30/2010 ( 19 moms have responded )




Are some women just destined to be bad mothers?

It appears so, a new study indicates.

Researchers from Virginia's University of Richmond say that some women are just biologically programmed with a "bad mothering" brain switch.

Craig Kinsley, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Richmond, said his study found that women develop a cluster of brain cells -- called maternal neurons -- during pregnancy. After the baby is born, these brain cells are then "switched on," resulting in good or bad parenting skills.

"We believe that a certain number of these 'maternal neurons' need to be 'switched on' for good mothering to take place," Kinsley said, according to NewsCore -- an international wire service owned by News Corp.

"Our research showed that the mothers with fewer than this number of 'maternal neurons' tended to neglect or abuse their offspring, while those animals with the lowest numbers actually savaged or killed their own young," he said.

Researchers used brain-scanning techniques to locate the maternal neurons. But not everyone agrees with the study's findings.

"There is no single factor that determines maternal behavior," said Alison Fleming, Ph.D., director of the Center for the Study of the Psychobiology of Maternal Behavior at the University of Toronto.

"The idea that a woman's brain is 'hardwired' in such a way that she will abuse her children and that it is not within her power to refrain from doing wrong is based on a misunderstanding of neuroanatomy," she added. "All behavior is dictated by the brain, but the brain is formed in interaction with our environment."|main|dl1|link6|


Gertie - posted on 03/31/2010




I think studies like this give women excuses. We are all in control of our behaviors and this is a cop out.

Maybe some women are more prone to not be touchy-feely or lovey-dovey with their children, but that doesn't mean they are automatically bad just means they have to try harder. Just like people who are just born smart, or artistic, or athletic...they can still be a straight A student, great painter, or football player, they will just have to try harder, practice more, put more effort into what they do.

LaCi - posted on 03/31/2010




I'm sure the purpose of the research is to find the problem and find potential solutions to it. Not to find the problem and hand it out as an excuse for bad parenting.

Amanda - posted on 03/31/2010




Yet another study to give humans an excuse not to take personal responsiblity for their actions or lack of actions.

LaCi - posted on 03/31/2010




Oh I wasn't offended. Actually when you put it like that I totally agree with you.

It did actually take me quite a while to really feel like a mother. I didn't feel a connection when I was pregnant. I didn't really feel the connection postpartum. It wasn't until I let go of what I thought it was supposed to feel like to be a mother that I really started feeling like I was a mother. All it did was lead me to the conclusion that motherhood just feels different and my expectations were bizarre lol. But it could have possibly been the ppd making me feel disconnected. who knows.

Lady - posted on 03/31/2010




My sister has absolutley no maternal instinct that's why she's never had or will have children. I think some women probably feel the same as she does but feel pressured by society to be mothers especially in the past, luckily I think it's becoming more acceptable to grow old childless so hopefully the mummies without the maternal "switch" will be comming more of a thing of the past.

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actually its true, my friend went to school to be a medical assistant and they learned that some woman arent maternal like others. some go crazy and cant cope and others just hurt their kids because they go so crazy and some just dont have maternal skills.

my moms not really a mom. she was there a total of a few years in our lifes and even at that she really didnt parent. she doesnt care about her kids at all and if she does you cant tell. like LaCi it took me awhile to connect with our daughter. while i was pregnant it didnt really phase me, after i had her i was happy but it took me until just a few weeks ago to actually feel like a mom and to bond with her. even now i still have a hard time but as time goes on it gets better for me. i didnt have my mom to teach me how to be a mom. i lived with my grandma and when we were a little older we moved in with our dad again and then we were back and forth alot especially me. so i never really had stability. a dad really cant show you how to be a mom. he cant show you the maternal instincts. just like my husband didnt have his dad, it took him awhile to get the hang of it and he still has problems bc he never had his dad there.

Dana - posted on 04/01/2010




Interesting study. I believe that some women just aren't cut out to be parents I also think it has to do with the way you were raised. It will be interesting to see what else comes about in the future.

Jess - posted on 04/01/2010




It no secret that some women just arn't cut out to be mothers. Some are just too lazy to care for their kids and others were dragged up rather than raised and so in the circle of life, they often repeat this with their own children.

So for the nature vs nurture.... I think its nurture all the way. When we know better we do better ! If you need any more proof of this, come ride the public train system with me, I'll point out a few good examples... foul mouthed 30 something year old grandmother, swearing at her barely 18 year old daughter who in turn is yelling and swearing at the filthy, under feed baby shoved in the tatty hand me down $30 stroller !

Can someone remind me why child abduction is still illegal in that situation ???

Debbie - posted on 03/31/2010




I agree that this is just a waste of money and time better spent on something usefull. We are all different and how we act is totally up to us. We all learn right from wrong one way or another, be it from our parents, school or society. Some women just dont know how to show they love, some may not love, some may show too much. Thing is Dads have been doing this for years, some are great, some are doing the best they can and some are just not at all! Why is it that we carry a child so we automatically have to show love and affection in a way that society approves of?
The mothers that do horrible things to their kids were messed up way before they had kids. If they didnt do this to their own kids they would probably do it someone else's.
My Nan showed too much love to my mum, (so mum says) mum finds it hard to be that affectionate with my sister and I and her past boyfriends, she has since learnt and she is settled in a relationship. This didnt hinder my abilty to love my children and show them or tell them. I am with my first boyfriend and have been for 16 yrs, my sister is with her high school boyfriend and still happy after I think it is just us and our descisions, we make good ones or bad ones, still they are ours.

Ez - posted on 03/31/2010




I absolutely believe some women lack the maternal instinct, and it makes sense that there's a neurological or chemical reason for that. But it still doesn't absolve women of their responsibility to make appropriate decisions in regards to raising their child.

Lisamarie - posted on 03/31/2010




Oh, LaCi, I'm sorry if my post came across like I was saying women with PND are bad parents, I didn't mean it like at all and I hope I didn't offend you. I will try to clarify, my SIL had PND and she could not get the feelings for her child she thought she should have, she didn't feel close to him or hug him or anything like that, sure she could look after her child and went through the motions of parenthood but she didn't feel like a mother or a connection to her child. I guess women suffer in different ways but that is the way it was with my SIL.

I do not think that a woman who lacks maternal instinct is going to leave their children in dumpsters, just because you lack the maternal instinct does not make you a bad mother. Which is the point I was trying to make.

LaCi - posted on 03/31/2010




Yeah... I don't think My PPD had anything to do with the lack of a maternal instinct. If it did my son may have ended up in a dumpster. My PPD was internally focused, and my son came first. I just happened to be crying hysterically and self loathing for a year. I still took VERY good care of my son.

Lisamarie - posted on 03/31/2010




I don't believe we have a "good mum"/"bad mum" switch although I do think thatsome women just aren't cut out to be mothers, they lack maternal feelings and I don't think a lot of women can control it, which I think we see with postnatal depression. I'm not too sure on this one but a few people sprang to my mind to but I don't think it as simple and black and white as a "switch".

Johnny - posted on 03/30/2010




I think my grandmother was like this. She was never abusive or neglectful, but just had no idea how to nurture or love children. She fed, clothed, educated, & sheltered them properly, but they are all emotionally damaged from lack of loving. I think she lacked the "nurture" gene and she also grew up without a mother. She is a kind person and very nice, but doesn't understand how to show affection or nurture. I never remember her hugging me, showing or stating any sort of affection whatsoever. She had 5 kids, 3 with depression, 3 with ADD, 1 with severe OCD (obviously some have more than one issue). They are all always in therapy. If they want to say something meaningful to one another, they tell someone else so that that person might happen to mention it to the intended recipient. They're completely emotionally stunted.

My mom and my aunt are the only 2 who had their own kids, and they both were purposefully determined to be very loving with their kids. And they both took lots of parenting courses to help them learn how to parent better than they saw in their own home. The result, 5 grandchildren age 25-34 no depression, no ADD, no OCD, and all of us are pretty happy.

Hmm.. now that I typed that all out I'm starting to think about the nature vs. nurture argument. Was she lacking a the "good mother" brain switch or was she just not exposed to mothering so did not learn how to do it? I wonder....

Sharon - posted on 03/30/2010




If they had surfed this forum - their stats would have been higher for bad moms, no neurons firing at all...

Charlie - posted on 03/30/2010




Doesn't surprise me one bit ! I know there are a couple of people who popped into my head when i read it .

Jessica - posted on 03/30/2010




I'm pretty sure my mother in-law fits into this area of being a crappy natural instinct at all...

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