Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


This qualitative study explored what could be learned from the practice wisdom of clinical practitioners about the subjective experience of attachment for children that have been raised in a family where the primary caretaker was a mother formally diagnosed as schizophrenic. Most of the literature on this subject has addressed this mother-child dyad by focusing on the subjective experience of the mother. The sample was comprised of eight licensed clinical practitioners that generated nine cases with ten children for discussion. The mothers in all cases experienced multiple hospitalizations and most were single parents. The children in all cases experienced physical and emotional neglect and violence either directed at the child or with the child as observer. All of the children had axis one diagnosis. Major findings were that the children clearly perceived that something was wrong with their mothers in childhood although they did not grapple with the formal diagnosis of schizophrenia until adolescence. Three strategies to cope with the mother's illness were identified all of which were considered adaptive: detachment/dissociation, hyper-vigilance and projection. It would be important to explore how typical these three strategies are for this population and whether more strategies can be identified in future study. The findings in this study pointed out the tremendous need for more research on this population, both quantitative and qualitative.


Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2008. iv, 73 p. Includes bibliographical references (p. 60-66)