Ghosts in the Nursery

Last month, I read Ghosts in the Nursery as part of a course assignment. When I saw the title of the book, my spooky alert turned on. I don’t like spooky! Ghosts in the Nursery was a required reading, so I braced myself up for the spooky adventure. As I began to read, I realized I had judged a book by its cover. The book exceeded my expectation. It inspired one of the most viewed posts on this blog, Ghosts in Our Marriage.

We all expect the mother of a newborn to be happy, we expect mothers to not abuse their children, and we always assume mothers will form a healthy bond with their children. Sadly, this isn’t always the case. Some moms have difficulty bonding, are depressed, and feel like someone else will be better off mothering their child. Some moms just seem to fail despite telling themselves, “I want something better for my child” or “I don’t want my child to experience what I experienced as a child”. We are always quick to judge these mothers because we don’t know their stories. Some deep and suppressed issues must be addressed before these moms can begin to do what they have been naturally gifted to do as mothers.

Selma Fraiberg, the author of Ghosts in the Nursery was a social worker and a psychoanalyst. She handled thousands of child-abuse cases. Based on studies conducted by Fraiberg’s team, she asserted that the traumatic experiences of parents and inter-generational trauma find their way into the nursery (Read the article by downloading the PDF document on this website). The nursery can be described as the place of security for the child. Where the child is nurtured and assured of safety. The Nursery is our relationship with our child. Trauma shows up uninvited like ghosts to haunt a child, interfere with parent-child relationship and continue the circle of inter-generational trauma. A mother who was abused and neglected as a child may become an abusive mother. A mother with a family history of incest, promiscuity, child-abandonment and pregnancy outside marriage may end up repeating history.

I bet you are wondering why some parents with traumatic childhood and life experiences don’t transfer trauma or repeat history. It is because they dealt with their traumatic past. They dealt with it by not living in denial, simply getting over it or suppressing their emotions. The aforementioned studies conducted by Fraiberg showed that mothers who suppressed emotions of childhood trauma transferred trauma to their children. Mothers in these studies began to heal as each one remembered her feelings as a traumatized child, the grief, and pain. Remembering made them empathize with their children. They finally felt what their children were feeling and couldn’t bare leaving their children to feel what they felt as children.

Spiritual Lesson: If we forget how lost and miserable we were before God’s love set us free, we will become ungrateful, judgmental, self-righteous and unable to empathize with the unregenerate soul or a believer who has fallen into sin. God loved you when you were unlovable, pass it on!

In my next post, I will discuss other practical ways to kick out Ghosts from the nursery.

Thank you for reading

Reference: Fraiberg, S.H., Adelson, E., & Shapiro, V. (1975) Ghosts in the nursery:A psychoanalytic approach to the problem of infant/ mother relationships. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 14 (3), pp. 386-422.


  1. Hello!! Love this post as it is right up my alley. I am studying clinical behavior health for my masters and I do see how trauma can affect people. Not just one generation but several. However, some people are “resilient” and are able to face the issue, deal with it and change the narrative.
    Thanks for sharing! 🌹

    1. Thank you for the insightful comment. Oh yes, individual differences and resilience (often due to intervention) makes the outcome of events different. The degree to which each person is affected varies. We thank God for His grace. ❤️
      I am glad to meet a fellow behavioral scientist 🙂

  2. Very inspiring sis. It’s true, it has a huge tendency of one’s childhood being replayed when one becomes a parent if not careful.
    I believe with God we can live above such trauma. It requires being deliberate though but we can with God in the picture.

  3. This is something I struggle with personally. The hardest part in beginning to heal was overcoming the shame that told me I was “just like my mom”. I see a therapist regularly and apologize to my kiddos when I make a mistake.

    The Everyday Parenting Toolkit by Alan Kazdin and Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay have been two great resources for me personally. They’ve supplied me with lots of options for leading my kids, including hands off options which I need when I am feeling intense emotions.

    I’ll have to get a copy of Ghosts in the Nursery and read that too!