University of Leicester
2019_SIVERNS_KS_DCLINPSY.pdf (17.3 MB)

‘If Only I Could Have Said, If Only Somebody Was Listening’: Mothers’ Experiences of Placing their Child into Care in the Context of Trauma

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posted on 2019-11-14, 16:58 authored by Kate Siverns
Systematic Literature Review: Eleven papers exploring the experiences of parenting in the context of former childhood trauma were subjected to an interpretive meta-synthesis. Three themes were generated. Forming a parental identity through the lens of trauma related to the interpretation of all parenting experiences, especially challenges, in terms of the effects of childhood abuse. Protecting against perceived threat related to many parents fearing they would be unable to protect their children, and themselves, from harm. The need for safe support was concerned with how parents often felt they needed support but experienced this as unsafe. Results highlighted how professionals should recognize ambivalence as understandable in the context of lived experience and should seek to avoid pathologizing parental difficulties by normalising difficult emotional reactions.
Research Paper: Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was used to explore the sense-making of three mothers with trauma histories who had made, or come to agree with, the decision for their child to be placed into care. Three superordinate themes were presented: A fractured sense of motherhood highlighted the struggle with mothering identities in line with feelings of disconnection and separation; ‘I wish I could turn back the clocks’: Living with feelings of failure and shame illuminated the underlying feelings of guilt and shame associated with perceived failings; ‘Less than a person’: Becoming nothing and no-one’ alluded to the mothers’ experiences of isolation and disempowerment, which led to feeling devalued and dehumanised. Themes were discussed in relation to existing theory and literature and highlighted the importance of acknowledging the role of loss and grief as well as the use of therapeutic interventions which are sensitive to the operation of power.



Gareth Morgan; Stephen Melluish

Date of award


Author affiliation

Department of Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • DClinPsy



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