Maternal behaviors associated with smothering: a preliminary descriptive study

Child Abuse Negl. 2000 Sep;24(9):1175-83. doi: 10.1016/s0145-2134(00)00174-5.


Objectives: To describe maternal behavior in 15 women identified as having smothered their children.

Design: A descriptive study of maternal behavior and interaction with her child, using videotapes of mother and child together. These were obtained by covert video surveillance in a hospital setting. Maternal behavior was rated using an assessment schedule designed to be used with video.

Results: The mothers showed a range of behaviors. Three groups emerged; one whose interaction with the child resembled normal maternal behavior, a second who interacted in a hostile way, and a third who showed a paucity of interaction.

Conclusion: These preliminary data suggest that smothering may reflect more than one type of abnormal maternal relationship or attitude towards children. This may have implications for treatment and prognosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / mortality*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Homicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Maternal Behavior / psychology*
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy / epidemiology