Love and motherhood in Louis Theroux’s Mothers on the Edge

Damien W. Riggs, Clare Bartholomaeus, Clemence Due, Kathleen Connellan

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate


In our ethnography of a purpose-built mother-baby psychiatric unit (MBU), love was rarely a topic raised by the mothers and staff we spoke with (Kathleen Connellan, Clemence Due, Damien W. Riggs and Clare Bartholomaeus 2020). In that project, we undertook interviews with staff and mothers in addition to ethnographic observations of how staff and mothers moved within the space. On the rare occasions where love was spoken about during the interviews, it was in reference to a love of certain aspects of the space, such as the ready availability of natural light, echoing research on psychiatric units more broadly (Kathleen Connellan, Mads Gaardboe, Damien W. Riggs, Clemance Due, Amanda Reimscmidt and Lauren Mustillo 2013). This relatively limited focus on love was not surprising, given that our research sought to explore how both mothers and staff experience the built environment of the MBU. In the literature on MBUs more broadly, however, love is also noticeably absent (Kathleen Connellan, Clare Bartholomaeus, Clemance Due and Damien W. Riggs 2017). An exception to this appears in the work of Sonia Masciantonio, Susan R. Hemer and Anna Chur-Hansen (2018), who have examined how attachment theory may serve to reinforce normative assumptions about mother-baby love, potentially to the detriment of women staying in MBUs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)590-593
Number of pages4
JournalFeminist Media Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Love
  • motherhood
  • psychiatric
  • attachment theory


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