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Hart, C. (2012). The “Dead Mother Syndrome” and the Child in Care: A Framework for Reflecting on Why Some Children Experience Multiple Placement Breakdowns. J. Infant Child Adolesc. Psychother., 11(4):342-355.

(2012). Journal of Infant, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy, 11(4):342-355

The “Dead Mother Syndrome” and the Child in Care: A Framework for Reflecting on Why Some Children Experience Multiple Placement Breakdowns

Carolyn Hart

This paper is concerned with a subset of children in foster care who present as unable to use resources available to them. They make individuals involved with them feel inadequate and useless. Perhaps as a result of this, even from toddler-hood, these children experience serial disruption of foster placements. It is suggested that using Green's (1986) concept of the “dead mother syndrome” (whereby a child experiences a mother as physically present but emotionally dead) provides a useful framework to support both individual psychodynamic psychotherapy with the child and also a range of work with the team around the child.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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