Why are some mothers unaffective and unable to love their children?

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Marie-Ange Demory
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Lack of maternal affection is the difficulty for some women to express their emotions and show them to their children, even if they are very young. To be anaffective mothers however, it is not just a situation in which "a mother does not want to take care of her children" or who does not want to keep up with their needs. Not being able to feel love or affection for a child - or a teenager or an adult, if this condition continues over time - is not just the result of laziness or character. A good relationship between parents and children is built over time, it doesn't flick like a switch at birth.





That's not to say that some mothers can't really hear each other moms from the moment they take their babies in their arms and grasp in full and in a short time the ultimate meaning of this state, but that there are cases in the world in which the maternal emotional universe, untreated or acute cases of postpartum depression, or a particularly heavy traumatic and personal baggage affect this relationship, generating real impediments to maternal attachment in all phases of the child's life and in the long term, even in his adult life.

Let's see who the anaffective mothers are and what psychology and science say about causes and consequences.

Read also: The value of breastfeeding in the mother-child relationship

Anaffective mothers in psychology, who they are and why they behave this way

Anaffective mothers most often exhibit this pattern of behavior, sometimes even at the same time:



  • they are indifferent to their children's achievements
  • they are absent in their most important moments
  • they are emotionally detached
  • they can be aggressive or manipulative if necessary

The facets are obviously many and an article would not be enough to condense them all. Suffice it to say, however, that at the basis of an affectivity there is an emotional past that has often not been digested, which still weighs like a stone on the woman who carries it with her when she becomes a mother.

The "Emotional Relationships between Mothers and Infants" study is a timely collection of research and insights that aim to explore the processes that take place in the early stages of attachment between mother and child, especially in cases in which these are not activated. In this research we try to understand what are the causes of the lack of affect, which falls within the range of possible human emotions, linking them a lot not only to the woman's life from birth onwards but also to her previous emotional universe, often the result of trauma or unresolved. that he carries with him.

The study "Effects of maternal unavailability on mother-infant interactions" published in Infant Behavior and Development highlights the case of a 4-month-old baby with high levels of stress caused by the mother's emotional universe: separated for a while weeks, the scientists noted that physical distancing had less impact on the infant than constant intercourse with the mother and her torments. 

La trough that is unleashed or worsened with childbirth is one of the main causes studied by literature and psychology. In the study "Self-cognitions, stressful events, and the prediction of depression in children of depressed mothers" published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology episodes of bipolarism or maternal depression are correlated with the tendency of their children to develop the same type of tendency and what is surprising, already at an early age. 



For theorists, anaffectivity is often accompanied by episodes of aggression or, to counteract, episodes in which the child, even very young, is ignored by those who should take care of it.

Environmental and subjective causes (for example the woman becomes pregnant but did not want to have a child; cases in which the child is the result of violence) are then the suspects among the causes that generate anaffective behavior even in the long term. And this is because, if not properly recognized and treated with adequate therapy, this tendency then becomes pathological and crystallizes in a period that has a very impact on the child's life such as that of adolescence.

The consequences of having an anaffective mother

A child who does not receive affection from the mother tends to be:

  • less autonomous
  • less sure of himself
  • may develop less ability to manage emotions in the future
  • may feel in the throes of abandonment syndrome
  • he may feel compelled to become the reference figure himself, since he does not find her in the mother

Experts have long debated the consequences, because the effects of an affectivity, on several fronts and not just the maternal one, can generate a really cumbersome shock wave for those who suffer it without understanding why. Anaffective mothers do not suffer from this lack of affection, especially if they consider the child to be the symbol of one fault, Of a vice, Of a error. In the research "Mother's presence is not enough: Effect of emotional availability on infant exploration" published in Developmental Psychology, the effects of having an anaffective mother are explored from the point of view of the children who, by natural and instinctive propensity, seek her to request it. care, love and support.

The research states that "in an ambiguous situation, a mother with an emotional incapacity who does not know how to show affection for her children generates in that subject the inability to feel curiosity, the lack of stimulus for exploration". This means that the relationship with an anaffective mother, in the long term, becomes a stumbling block for that child that prevents him from moving in society. Until the moment in which one of the two does not change perspective and asks for help or moves away from the source of the trauma.

Read also: How to build a healthy relationship between mother and daughter

Whose is it fault, so? Difficult to blame it on anyone. When we are born, by natural instinct we cling to the mother and so we continue to do in the first years of life and then, depending on how the relationship evolves, in the following ones. But it is not certain that a mother, who first of all is a person with a personal baggage that does not disappear when a child arrives, can and knows how to manage emotions efficiently, with negative implications on family life and, as we have seen , even on the personal one of the son himself.

In cases where the mother has a personality or mood disorder that implies, among other things, the lack of affection for her child, the only thing to do is to help her recognize it, find psychotherapeutic support that can guide her to cure before all of itself.

Fonti per l'articolo: Development and Psychopathology, "Emotional Relationships between Mothers and Infants: Knowns, Unknowns, and Unknown Unknowns"; Infant Behavior and Development, "Effects of maternal unavailability on mother-infant interactions"; Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, "Self-cognitions, stressful events, and the prediction of depression in children of depressed mothers"; Developmental Psychology, "Mother's presence is not enough: Effect of emotional availability on infant exploration" 

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