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De-pathologising motherhood

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge International Handbook of Mad Studies
PublisherTaylor and Francis Inc.
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9780429878657
ISBN (Print)9781138611108
Published1 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright: © 2022 selection and editorial matter, Peter Beresford and Jasna Russo; individual chapters, the contributors.

King's Authors


This chapter discusses the way in which clinical interpretations of maternal distress as postnatal depression, postpartum psychosis and other disorders depict mothers as unwell and disturbed, ignoring the ways in which women are reacting to the personal, interpersonal, and social disruption that having a baby entails. Illness labels categorise what has happened to, between and around people, as disorders of a mother’s mind, shutting down the need to search for answers beyond the individual woman. Based on Dubriwny (2010), this chapter explores how some mothers-more often white, middle-class, married, cis and heterosexual-who experience distress are viewed as ‘diverted’ but ultimately ‘good’ mothers and are diagnosed, treated and returned to their female caring role. ‘Bad’ mothers-more often women of colour, single, deprived, or mothering outside of dominant cultural norms-typically have experiences, diagnoses, emotional expressions and behaviours deemed unacceptable, and are policed and may have their children removed from their care. Trauma/violence, socioeconomic deprivation, racism, and homophobia are ignored, while damaging notions of the ‘perfect mother’ persist, harming the bonds between mothers and limiting our access to support.

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