Care that is Not Just Unskilled but Abusive

Maternal care is disrespectful to the point of abuse in many of the countries of the world.[1] How can it be that members of the caring professions can so abuse their position of trust? This short editorial argues that a culture of poor care can develop among perfectly ordinary people – indeed, we know this from the iconic experiments of Zimbardo [2] and Milgram.[3] As the Good Samaritan experiment shows,[4] people are exquisitely sensitive to their environment, especially their social environment.[5] So, here is my model for how an abusive culture develops:

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director


  1. The Lancet. Achieving respectful care for women and babies. Lancet. 2015. 385:1366.
  2. Haney C, Banks C, Zimbardo P. A Study of Prisoners and Guards in a Simulated Prison. Washington, D.C.: Office of Naval Research. 1973.
  3. Milgram S. Behavioral Study of Obedience. J Abnorm Psychol. 1963; 67(4):371-8.
  4. Darley JM, Batson D. “From Jerusalem to Jericho”: A Study of Situational and Dispositional Variables in Helping Behavior. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1973; 27(1): 100-8.
  5. Bandura A, Ross D, Ross SA. Transmission of aggression through imitation of aggressive modelsJ Abnorm Soc Psychol. 1961; 63: 575-82.

2 thoughts on “Care that is Not Just Unskilled but Abusive”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s