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Types of Mother-Daughter Relationships

by Melody Causewell, studioD

The mother-daughter relationship perseveres throughout the lifespan. Though the relationship changes over time, mothers have a tendency to mother and daughters may seek approval even later in life. It is the response to these tendencies and the attachment style of the pair that defines different mother-daughter relationship styles.

Best Friends and Competitors

"Bosom buddy" types of relationships are marked by mutual understanding and closeness with an element of one-upmanship, much like a sibling relationship. Due to the element of friendship, where each partner provides emotional support to the other, mothers in these relationships tend to have difficulty with discipline. An article in "Psychology Today" reports that in relationships where competition and envy play a role, mothers may have little sense of their role as a parent and instead focus on their children as peers.

Authoritarian Mother, Submissive Daughter

Research published in the journal "Parenting: Science and Practice" found that authoritarian mothers tend to respond strongly to embarrassment from their children's behaviors, show more anger and tend to focus less on empathy than less authoritarian mothers. As children grow, these patterns may lead to daughters who comply with their mother's wishes in order to avoid her anger or disappointment. Once daughters are on their own, tensions may rise as the daughter makes her own decisions independent of her mother, with maternal disapproval leading to shame or rebellion, depending on the daughter's personality.

Role Reversal

Attachment disorganization (generally caused by trauma and abuse) is related to role reversal in parents and children, notes a study published in 2008 in the journal "Attachment and Human Development." Mother-daughter role reversal relationships are marked by daughters taking on a supportive role, providing care-taking and other parental behaviors, with mothers relying on daughters for support. A study published in 2005 in the same journal found that role reversal relationships are more common when mothers experienced role reversals with their own parents.

Reciprocal Bonds

Security in the mother-daughter relationship is generally preceded by warm, appropriate responses in childhood. Mothers and daughters in these relationships may enjoy an element of friendship while respecting their generational differences. Both parties tend to be mutually supportive. This mutual support has advantages later in life. Daughters with secure attachment patterns experienced decreased anxiety over taking care of their aging mothers as compared with daughters with non-secure attachment patterns, reports a 2001 study published in the "Journal of Gerontology." As mothers age, daughters with less ideal attachments may provide less emotional support than those who are secure in their bonds. Research published in the "Journal of Marriage and Family" found that securely attached mother-daughter pairs tended to provide more assistance to one another than pairs with weaker bonds.

About the Author

Melody Causewell has been a writer in the mental health field since 2001. She written training manuals and clinical programs for mental health organizations. She has published feature articles "Leaven" magazine and has been published in "Natural Awakenings." She has a degree in psychology, a Masters degree in social work and is a La Leche League leader.

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