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Attachment, Mothering and Mental Illness: Mother-Infant Therapy in an Institutional Context.

Attachment, Mothering and Mental Illness: Mother-Infant Therapy in an Institutional Context.
Author Information (click to view)

Masciantonio S, Hemer SR, Chur-Hansen A,


Masciantonio S, Hemer SR, Chur-Hansen A, (click to view)

Masciantonio S, Hemer SR, Chur-Hansen A,

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Culture, medicine and psychiatry 2017 07 15() doi 10.1007/s11013-017-9544-9
Abstract

This paper is an ethnographic exploration of how attachment theory underpins therapeutic practices in an Australian institutional context where mothers of infants have been diagnosed and are undergoing treatment for mental illness. We argue that attachment theory in this particular context rests on a series of principles or assumptions: that attachment theory is universally applicable; that attachment is dyadic and gendered; that there is an attachment template formed which can be transferred across generations and shapes future social interactions; that there is understood to be a mental health risk to the infant when attachment is characterised as problematic; and that this risk can be mitigated through the therapeutic practices advocated by the institution. Through an in-depth case study, this paper demonstrates how these assumptions cohere in practice and are used to assess mothering as deficient, to choose therapeutic options, to shape women’s behaviour, and to formulate decisions about child placement.

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