Difficult Mothers (Paperback)

Understanding and Overcoming Their Power

By Terri Apter

W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393345445, 256pp.

Publication Date: May 13, 2013

Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (5/7/2012)
MP3 CD (7/5/2016)

List Price: 15.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


An essential work for readers seeking compassionate, wise guidance about the powerful relationship between mothers and their sons and daughters.

Mother love is often seen as sacred, but for many children the relationship is a painful struggle. Using the newest research on human attachment and brain development, Terri Apter, an internationally acclaimed psychologist and writer, unlocks the mysteries of this complicated bond. She showcases the five different types of difficult mother—the angry mother, the controlling mother, the narcissistic mother, the envious mother, and the emotionally neglectful mother—and explains the patterns of behavior seen in each type. Apter also explores the dilemma at the heart of a difficult relationship: why a mother has such a powerful impact on us and why we continue to care about her responses long after we have outgrown our dependence. She then shows how we can conduct an “emotional audit” on ourselves to overcome the power of the complex feelings a difficult mother inflicts. In the end this book celebrates the great resilience of sons and daughters of difficult mothers as well as acknowledging their special challenges.

About the Author

Terri Apter is a writer, psychologist, and retired Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge. Her nine books include The Sister Knot and What Do You Want from Me? She lives in Cambridge, England.

Praise For Difficult Mothers: Understanding and Overcoming Their Power

The most intelligent and lucid account I’ve read of human psychology.
— Carol Gilligan

Apter . . . risks the wrath of anyone who romanticizes ‘mother love’ as instinctual and universal by describing, candidly and cogently, the framework in which children experience their most significant attachment.

This sound, intelligent book is a good starting point for a self-examination.

Apter’s advice will help readers make sense of difficult mother-child relationships and develop strategies for reshaping responses and expectations. . . . Anyone with a problematic maternal relationship will find empathy and therapeutic approaches for healing.