The Psychopathic Mother

They are more common than we think. It really helped me to read this. Hopefully, it will help others to know they are not alone, and NOT crazy to think they had a mother who is, or was, a sociopath.

Children growing up without empathy or love

“There are many adult children who grew up under the influence of a toxic parent. For a minority, the toxicity of the parenting was a result of a parent’s psychopathy, a personality disorder that, by its diagnostic criteria, makes it impossible to establish a normal parent-child bond. When the mother is the diagnosed psychopath, the child may grow up in a world like the rabbit hole Alice fell into. [In my view, it’s a disorder of the soul, not their “personality.” Psyche” literally means “soul.”]

index Psycopath

Nothing is what it seems with the Female Psychopath

Research suggests that male and female psychopaths are a lot alike in terms of their core personalities. They are self-centered, deceptive, shallow emotions, and lack of empathy. They exploit others for self-serving reasons, lack remorse for their actions, and blame others for the consequences of their actions. Both also use their charm and physical appearance to manipulate others although women may use sex more often, and outright violence less often, than men.

Female psychopaths are quite willing to resort to brutal violence to attain their needs when deceit, manipulation and charm either fail or are not available.

However, there are some gender differences. Female psychopaths are much less common than males [I disagree with this. I think the women are more protected and not looked at as psychopaths…merely because they are a woman. The female psychopath hides behind her gender] and may use different strategies to get their needs met, perhaps as a result of gender role expectations. In comparison to male psychopaths, for instance, female psychopaths were less likely to engage in animal cruelty or physical threats and more likely to use flirting and verbal manipulation. In addition, because of their primary care taking role, female psychopaths are more likely to target their children.


See What A Good Mother I Am

Psychopathic mothers play “Super Mom” when others are watching. She will make sure anyone who will listen knows what a great parent she is. In fact, she may come across as something of a martyr, i.e., a mother who sacrifices her own wants and needs for those of her offspring. Behind closed doors, though, she shows little or no genuine interest in nurturing or caring for the child and may subject him/her to abuse or neglect.

The psychopathic mother doesn’t see her child as a separate person. Instead, the child is viewed as a personal possession whose sole purpose is to meet her mother’s needs. Mother-child interactions are very controlling and any affection is tied to behavior that feeds the mother’s ego.

Natural resistance or rebellion on the part of the child is viewed as betrayal and is met with harsh criticism or punishment to bring him or her back in line. In fact, she cannot allow her child to develop “normally” because of her need to mold him or her into exactly who she wants him/her to be.

Sadly, the inability to feel empathy, a benchmark characteristic of psychopathy, is especially destructive to an emotionally developing child. Any hint of weakness or pain from the child is criticized or invalidated unless it can be used to the mother’s benefit; consider the response of a psychopathic mother, who had married a known sex offender even though, at the time, she had a five year old child. When the child finally told her mother that her stepfather had raped her, her only response was, “Why didn’t you tell me at the divorce settlement so we could have gotten more money out of him?”

Most of us grow up with a few emotional bruises from the well-meaning mistakes of our parents. A child who grows up with a psychopathic mother, on the other hand, may inherit a legacy filled with self-doubt, confusion and guilt as s/he struggles to differentiate who s/he is from the object a psychopathic mother attempted to create and manipulate.”

Not only self-doubt and confusion, but deep pain and zero sense of self-worth. The child of a psychopathic mother may grow to question their own reality and will be highly unlikely to be able to fully trust women.

____________________________________________________________________, Published on July 10, 2013 by Joni E. Johnston, Psy.D. in The Human Equation
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20 Responses to The Psychopathic Mother

  1. Little Nel says:

    Mary, thanks for the link to the narcissistic mother site.

    I can relate to being the scapegoat. I was the one who got away from the dysfunction, went into therapy, and proceeded to have a happy fulfilling life. I raised three amazing children. My husband and I are still crazy about each other after all these years.

    My mother wanted to be a movie star. She blamed her failure to achieve it on her children.
    I was the child, the second born, who she blamed for ruining her picture perfect body.
    I remember laughing about it later as an adult. I thought, what a foolish woman. Her body was going downhill anyway with age, like everyone else’s body.

    She was well into her sixties and still acting like she was a sex symbol. She was cheating on her husband and having sexual trysts with the men she hired to do handyman jobs around her house at age 70!

    • Alethea says:

      LN, just curious, was your mother sexually abused as a child? Sounds like she was.

      • Little Nel says:

        I believe that my mother was raped by her employer or one of her father’s hired workers.
        My mother went to work as a live in caretaker/housekeeper/babysitter for a man who had two small children and a sick wife.

        She was 15 and beautiful.

        If she would have told, there is no doubt that she would have been blamed and told that her beauty was the reason he raped her. She would have gotten no empathy.

        Her mother told her that her beauty was going to “shame the family.”

        One of her sisters died from alcoholism. That alcoholic sister had been raped by her father’s farm manager and kept the “secret” The oldest sister got into therapy and disclosed her sister’s “secret” to me. The oldest sister knew of the rape because the victim told her.

        It’s amazing how many people keep the “secret” and suffer for it.

    • Mary says:

      You’re welcome, LN. I’m glad you found it helpful. Your mom sounds like she has some of the classic traits. It manifests in different ways, but there are certain defining characteristics that children of narcissists can all recognize.

  2. This was very well written & really makes you think. I like how you established the fact that Psychopaths are BOTH men and women very clearly… and then point out the differences. I find it all very disturbing. I’ve had to deal with the “Mother” of my daughter’s friend who seems to fit this description very well. I feel so sorry for the girl, she will obviously be very hurt in this life. I had to eventually distance them because she was pinching her and doing other odd little things, even after being caught & trying to tell her why it’s wrong. Just not acceptable from a 9 yr old. One day when she was dropping her daughter off she was mad because the daughter said something that embarrassed her (nothing big), and I noticed that when she hugged her goodbye she squeezed her close and started stepping on her foot pretty hard at the same time (in a weird sadistic way). She was saying goodbye, see you tomorrow through clenched teeth. This woman walks to pick her daughter up from school every day dressed like a teenager (short skirts, cut off tops, long boots). Anyway sorry to sort of go on like this:)

    • Alethea says:

      Can you speak privately with anyone else in that family? Because we all know that what we see in public is magnified one hundred times, or more, behind closed doors.

      • That’s exactly what I thought of whenever they were around! If this girl’s Mom spoke so sexually around us including my children, how are they at home? And no I really don’t know of anyone to speak to. The Dad had hinted at the Mom having a rough life with all of her older brothers growing up & I do know that the Mom once owned a strip club with her own Father at one time. The Mom was a stripper when she met hubby. Everything about this woman is sexualized. They moved here from far away so it’s really just the 3 of them.

        • Alethea says:

          Being sexualized as children, and having lived rough lives, are a part of the history of many women….but never ever an excuse for them to not protect and defend their child, or to not turn around and sexualize their daughter. I am glad the daughter has you to care about her –even if in spirit.

          • I agree totally, once the decision is made to repeat history, as an adult… I have no sympathy whatsoever. I think Dad feels sorry for Mom, plus he has no backbone. He should have never let her come back. This scares me. I actually spoke to someone who works in CPS, and unless she is hurt they wouldn’t even check on her… I guess emotional trauma doesn’t count for anything.

  3. Mary says:

    Oops, I should have said “most of THE description”, not “YOUR”. I understand you are reposting from a Psychology Today article. Sorry for that oversight. 😉

  4. Mary says:

    A disorder that shares many of the traits you describe here is Narcissistic Personality disorder. Most of your description of the mother’s behavior and motivations are exactly the same for narcissistic mothers. I have gained a lot of insight from another website, Thanks for sharing, Alethea.

  5. carolinva says:

    Sounds like me and my mother. I always felt like an outsider.

  6. tifed3 says:

    I would like to reply that this condition is male or female. Mom’s and Dad’s.


    • Alethea says:

      Absolutely. I honor your desire to point that out. Though, I posted the article because these mothers are shielded, hidden, and guarded by those who do not want to say/know/believe anything bad about mothers –especially women who don’t want to acknowledge that other women can be this bad, or if they are forced to see it…..they say, “oh, but she is a victim.”

  7. shanakd9 says:

    Woah!!! You couldn’t have described my mother any better if you tried. Horrifying, especially to see it written out in black and white like this.

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