The experience of motherhood for alienated mothers

Ricky Finzi-Dottan, Hadass Goldblatt, Orlee Cohen-Masica

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


This qualitative study examined the alienated mothers' experience of motherhood. Data were collected by in-depth semi-structured interviews with 10 women whose children refused any contact with them. Findings revealed one main theme, 'Merging vs. detachment', consisting of four subthemes or motifs in these women's narratives: (i) marriage as an illusion of salvation from an abusive home; (ii) giving birth to a child as compensation for chaotic childhood experiences; (iii) husband exploiting and abusing their sense of failing motherhood; and (iv) the husband and mother-in-law expelling the mother. These findings were interpreted within the framework of Bowen's theory. The interpretation suggests that impairment in the mothers' and ex-husbands' differentiation of the self is manifest in the shattered mother-child relations and in the mothers' loss of their children in the struggle with their mothers-in-law. Implications for practice are included.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)316-325
Number of pages10
JournalChild and Family Social Work
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • Divorce
  • Motherhood
  • Parental alienation syndrome
  • Qualitative study


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