My ex-Mother-in-Law looks like a shriveled raisin. Of all the pictures I have seen of her, the eyes never smile. No happiness beams from her. There is no doubt she had a tough life.
“Your mother-in-law is cold as a fish” one of my uncles said on my wedding day, “She has absolutely no emotions”. He is right, my ex-MIL is the epitome of an emotionally unavailable woman and mother.
An emotionally unavailable primary caregiver is detrimental to a child. When the primary caregiver cannot respond sensitively to a baby, it leads to attachment problems in children; a contributor to conduct disorders and Anti-Social Personality Disorder. It is the environmental factor for expression of the genetic component of psychopathy.
Attachment problems also can manifest themselves as eating disorders in early adulthood. Sadly my ex-sister-in-law has an eating disorder. I am still, and always will be, extremely fond of her.
Both cruelty to animals (the killing of cats by Ex) and eating disorders are expressions of control and punishment for a lost and/or dysfunctional relationship with an emotional unavailable primary caregiver. Eating disorders are more prevalent and thus more scientific research is available to describe the attachment problems experienced in early childhood, but animal cruelty is no different. Gender stereotypically the female internalized, the male externalized.
Ancient Egypt is probably the clearest positive example of adoration of women and cats. The main goddess Bastet was both woman and cat. She evolved from the warrior lioness to the protector against evil. What cows are in India, domesticated cats were in ancient Egypt.
Cats also have a negative association with women. The derogatory feline term the English Language has for vagina would probably have horrified the Ancient Egyptians.
Halloween is only a few weeks past, but witches and cats are prominent features. Cats in medieval times were associated with witchcraft and the devil and cat-burning along side witch burning was a common occurrence. Cats are associated with women.
The killing of cats has been specifically researched in serial killers. The FBI is careful to state that not all cat killers are serial killers, but animal cruelty is a common denominator in serial killers and violence towards humans. Cat cruelty is specifically related to the image they have about women and their relationship with their mother. They are ‘easy’ subjects for research as they are incarcerated. Serial killers who killed women had a troublesome (understatement) relationship with their mother and killed and/or tortured predominantly cats prior to escalating to humans.
The American Psychological association has a clear directive for its members on how to deal with pet abuse and family violence.
“Pet abuse is clearly a significant part of the pattern of family violence and its early identification can save lives and protect families.”
Vaughn et al did one of the largest studies in the US studying animal cruelty and antisocial behavior. Thankfully only 1.8% of their subjects committed animal cruelty. Approximately 84% of those were male, white (70%) and born in the US (91%). Interesting was that 56% of the perpetrators had at least some college education.
About 76% of the subjects are ‘Never Married’ or ‘Widowed (that is scary), separated or divorced’.
And that is important for child custody. Why?
Attachment research has found that after 20 years 72% of the subjects still had the same attachment classification. The troubled relationship with the mother gets expressed by taking out the frustration on cats and the relationship dynamics with other women, be it wife or daughters. How the early attachment was classified, was also how adult (friendship) and romantic relationships were formed later in life.
Attachment classifications can be assessed through various scientific accepted tests, appropriate for the various ages. These tests are specific, and not generic. The simple statement ‘child is attached’ is meaningless. It sends shivers down the spine of competent child psychologists. Children are always attached, but there is a big difference between secure, and the insecure attachments; anxious, avoidant, ambivalent/resistant or disorganized.
“The presence of an attachment is distinct from its quality. Infants form attachments if there is someone to interact with, even if mistreated. Individual differences in the relationships reflect the history of care, as infants begin to predict the behavior of caregivers through repeated interactions.” — Handbook of Attachment
It is the quality of attachment that affects the future adult relationships, both romantic and with their own children.
And thus we are perpetuating the situation by putting children with an emotionally unavailable parent, we are perpetuating insecure attachments when children get significant time with a parent that is incapable of forming secure attachments, because (s)he did not have a secure attachment to begin with. We are jeopardizing the future generation.
In another post, another day, I will go deeper into the link of child abuse, child neglect and anti-social personality disorder.