Complex trauma among African American mothers in child protective services.

Joan M. Blakey, Maurya W. Glaude

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


More than 90% of mothers who become involved with child protection have histories of complex trauma exposure. Influenced by complex trauma, mothers react to involvement with child protection in a variety of ways. The goal of this study was to identify common reactions mothers with complex histories of trauma use to manage involvement with the child protection system and to examine those responses using a trauma-informed lens. Using an embedded case study design, in-depth interviews and file reviews were conducted with 20 African American mothers who had histories of complex trauma. Data analysis revealed mothers with complex trauma managed involvement with the child protection system in four primary ways: (a) hostility and combativeness, (b) disappearing or intermittently disappearing and reengaging in services, (c) superficial compliance, and (d) immobilizing fear. Although there has been increasing awareness of the high prevalence of trauma among child-welfare-involved mothers, the majority of trauma-informed services have been directed toward children. Research has suggested individuals who have histories of trauma cannot benefit from services that are not trauma informed. More research needs to be directed toward mothers with histories of complex trauma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Psychological Association


  • African American mothers
  • child welfare
  • fight/flight/freeze/fright
  • trauma


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