Haunting Minnie Dean: A Heuristic Inquiry Into Baby Farming, Psychological Infanticide and Closed Stranger Adoption

Sherwood, Violet
Tudor, Keith
Kelly, Frances
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

In this study I use the methodology of heuristic inquiry and methods from imaginal psychology to explore the relationship between 19th century baby farming, and my experience of psychological infanticide through closed stranger adoption. Weaving personal journal material, images, and creative writing, I demonstrate how my imaginal relationship with New Zealand baby farmer Minnie Dean revealed, and worked through, themes of infanticidal attachment. My theoretical context is infanticidal attachment theory and its foundation in the psychohistory of infanticide in the Western world. I also draw on adoption theory from psychoanalytic and attachment perspectives. Infanticidal attachment theory proposes that psychological infanticide contributes to serious mental disorders, notably schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder. Drawing on themes of relationship with the ‘murderous mother’, I explore archetypes and myths, personal story, historical evidence, and fictional literature to illuminate both internal and external factors of psychological infanticide. My focus on 19th century baby farming reveals a pivotal historical time in which social conscience metamorphosed the literal enactment of infanticide into psychological forms reinforced by closed stranger adoption laws. My research makes contributions to infanticidal attachment theory, pre- and perinatal psychology, adoption theory, and imaginal psychology. It provides an original and creative example of the lived experience of psychological infanticide from my perspectives as both former patient and current psychotherapist. The study offers hope to people living with infanticidal attachments and the clinicians who work with them, and makes recommendations for further research.

Baby farming , Psychological infanticde , Infanticidal attachment , Closed stranger adoption , Imaginal psychology , Minnie Dean
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