Abusive moms can’t stay calm when they nurture
A study of physically abusive mothers shows that when they are warm and nurturing, they began to experience more difficulty regulating their heart rate and staying calm.
…what emerged were clear distinctions between abusive, neglectful, and non-maltreating mothers in their physiological responses during parenting.
When abusive mothers were more warm and nurturing, they began to experience more difficulty regulating their heart rate and staying calm. This physiological-based stress response then led the abusive mothers to become more hostile and controlling toward their child a short time later in the interaction.
The same was not the case for mothers who had been previously identified as being physically neglectful or for mothers with no history of neglectful or abusive parenting.
“Abusive mothers who try to warmly support their child when the child faced a moderate challenge displayed a physiological response that suggested they’re stressed, on alert, and preparing to defend against a threat of some kind,”
“This kind of physiological response then led to a shift in an abusive mother becoming more hostile, strict, and controlling ways with her young child, regardless of how her child was behaving… when physically abusive mothers experience being a nurturing parent they find it to be hard work.
“It appears to quickly wear them out, perhaps because it challenges them in ways that lower-risk mothers don’t experience,” she says. “An abusive mother appears caught: when she does a good job with her child, it costs her physiologically, and it negatively affects her because it leads to more aversive parenting.”
“Most parents who struggle with child maltreatment really love their children and want help improving their parenting skills. Our findings suggest that many are experiencing a biological response during parenting that actively interferes with their efforts to parent in warm and nurturing ways.”