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Mothering without a Home

Homeless women and their children who reside in a transitional housing facility or shelter have experienced multiple traumas and disruptions in their earliest attachments. These multiple, chronic traumas often result in disorganized attachment disorders, which in turn effect all future development. Although there are a dearth of programs and interventions that work with disorganized attachment disorder within the homeless population, there are few studies that explore the difficulties that homeless mothers experience in forming positive attachments with their children. Mothering without a Home: Attachment Representations and Behaviors of Homeless Mothers and Children explores the attachment style of homeless mothers and its effect on the resulting attachment style of their children. Ann Smolen utilizes psychoanalytically informed interventions with the goal of aiding these women in developing a deeper capacity to understand and be attuned to their children's emotional needs.
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Table of Contents

Foreword by Mary Davis Introduction Chapter One: Sara Chapter Two: Three Cases Chapter Three: Cathy: Giving the Child Back To Her Mother Chapter Four: Mothering Without A Home Chapter Five: Literature Review Chapter Six: Project Findings Chapter Seven: Understanding the Findings Chapter Eight: Where Do We Go From Here? Chapter Nine: Comments on Mothering Without A Home by Alexandra Harrison Epilogue Appendix A: The Strange Situation Appendix B: Adult Attachment Interview Appendix C: Participant Survey Appendix D: AAI Classification System Appendix E: Strange Situation Coding Appendix F: AAI Data Bibliography Acknowledgements About the Authors

About the Author

Ann G. Smolen, PhD, is a supervising and training analyst in child, adolescent, and adult psychoanalysis at the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia. She is in private practice in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. Alexandra M. Harrison, MD, is a training and supervising analyst at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. She is also a clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.


In this book, Dr. Smolen brings the full force of her psychoanalytic understanding to the clinical encounter with the most emotionally deprived and needy of human beings, homeless mothers and their children. She helps us understand the intergenerational transmission of profound emotional neglect and the role of attachment, empathy, mirroring, mentalization and appropriate responsiveness to bring about amelioration. All of this is demonstrated through moving clinical examples as well as in a research study. We are indebted to her for her empathy, understanding, and investment in this project that required dedication and tolerance of unbearable affect. In this multilevel approach, using individual treatment as well as mother-child and group sessions, play and video production, she demonstrates the benefit of a psychoanalytically informed intervention. -- Ruth S. Fischer, MD, Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia

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