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Ask the Experts

Question:

I am a therapist for families that are so dysfunctional that Child and Family Services has intervened on behalf of the children’s welfare.

Recently I saw a woman, 31, with an eleventh child is due in September. Several of her children have been removed from her care; those in her custody are habitual juvenile offenders. She has been charged with child abuse more than once, and is now incarcerated after being charged with torture and willful abuse of a child under the age of 18.

Is some emotional need being met through these pregnancies or by “being pregnant”?

Answered by: Margaret Spinelli

It is, of course, hard to say, and the answer would be different for many woman.

She may be trying to fill up her own empty feelings. She may have a psychiatric illness, such as depression or bipolar disorder, which make her unable to function but also unable to resist sexual activity which may mean she is a victim of rape. Some men want their girlfriends to have babies because it feels more "macho." She may be repeating the trauma of her own childhood abuse. She may be a sociopath. I assume the only path to determine this would be a psychiatric interview, but she may not be forthcoming.