Journal of Medical Humanities

, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 63–75 | Cite as

Bad Mothers and Monstrous Sons: Autistic Adults, Lifelong Dependency, and Sensationalized Narratives of Care

  • Holly AllenEmail author


Sensationalized representations of autistic families in film and other media frequently feature violent encounters between mothers and sons. This essay analyzes two media stories and three films that suggest how limited—and therefore misleading—popular representations of the autism family are. Except for one of the films, these representations blame the problem of adult autistic dependency on either monstrous autism or bad mothering. Doing so elides collective social responsibility for autism care and denies the reality that autistic adults continue to have complex dependency needs that families cannot always meet. Narratives that sensationalize youth and adults with autism or scapegoat their maternal caregivers also diminish opportunities for social inclusion and for autistic people to live fully and dependently.


Autism Family Motherhood Unpaid caregiving Domestic violence Gender Complex care relations Care ethics, film 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.American Studies Program, Axinn Center at Starr LibraryMiddlebury CollegeMiddleburyUSA

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