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Can an evolutionary perspective shed light on maternal abuse of children?

Wren, B; Launer, J; Music, G; Reiss, MJ; Swanepoel, A; (2021) Can an evolutionary perspective shed light on maternal abuse of children? Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry , 26 (1) pp. 283-294. 10.1177/1359104520974418. Green open access

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Abstract

Although the theory of evolution lies at the heart of contemporary biology, its influence on the study of child psychology and psychiatry has been limited. In earlier work we have argued that evolutionary thinking has much of value for clinicians. Here, we explore the possible significance of evolutionary theory for understanding child abuse by mothers, particularly neglect, emotional abuse and physical abuse. We draw on the research of anthropologists, primatologists and evolutionary theorists to make predictions about the environmental circumstances under which one would expect such abuse to be more prevalent. We discuss how in modern, Western cultures there is less understanding of the circumstances that may influence, even predispose, a mother to limit her emotional and material commitment to an infant or child. We use four short vignettes of clinical cases and one longer case description to illustrate the insights offered to clinicians by an evolutionary approach. We see our work both as contributing to greater understanding of these matters and as facilitating more compassionate models of care and intervention for women in such circumstances.

Type: Article
Title: Can an evolutionary perspective shed light on maternal abuse of children?
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/1359104520974418
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1359104520974418
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
Keywords: Child, child-abuse, evolution, mother, neglect, parenting
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10118015
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