Neuroscience and neurobiology are now confirming what we know in our hearts to be true (we don’t need ‘scientific proof’ for everything): that the role of the ‘good enough’ mother in the infants first 3 yrs of life is crucial in right hemisphere brain formation, the development of the ‘self’, self regulation and processing of negative emotions particularly rage (before 3 yrs).
It is absolutely essential to brain development that the infant has a sensitive, responsive mother to help be a ‘container’ for the developing self. This is a limbic brain to limbic brain relationship (emotional/mammalian brain) and if the infant does not get enough of this it is akin to a kind of ‘brain damage’ (mid limbic emotional brain more right hemisphere). This is the concept of the 'good enough' mother - good enough means that we don't have to be perfect or get it right all the time. In fact if we get it right just 40% of the time with our kids this is 'good enough'.
Yet if the parenting is not good enough, the wiring goes wrong which has significant implications into adult behaviour: from sarcasm , judgementalism (sexism being one), addictions including exercise, depression and withdrawal inability to ‘do’ relationships, self harm, suicide, violence or sexual abuse, bipolar, personality disorders etc etc. The ‘good enough’ father is also crucial but for different reasons at different ages.
Where is individual choice in this? If the mother’ right hemisphere was not nurtured and sustained by her mother, in turn she will not be able to nurture and sustain her own child. And so the cycle continues, into a ‘sick’ society. So for those of us who want to try to dismiss or rationalise this ‘knowing’ (OMG I’m screwed then!), useful to remember the miraculous plasticity of the human brain, that even this deeply embedded wrong wiring can be changed with effort and acknowledgement.
That’s wherein individual choice lies. But it is not a rational process, we cannot ‘think’ our way out of the problem. But for example, the right type of psychotherapy is a limbic to limbic brain relationship that can change the very wiring and change lives in the most positive ways imaginable (even the repeat rate of sexual offending (children) is dropped to 5% or less). And these are the reasons why mothers are ‘culpable’ but should not be blamed.