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"We had a nice little chat over tea"

I reviewed a study by Fingerman, K. L. (2000), which nicely frames the relationships between mothers and daughters throughout life. I think his could be a helpful guide for mothers and daughters who sometimes struggle with their relationship. The study shows that Mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons have many differences in their connections with each other. Women maintain contact that is more frequent with their children than men do, and mothers rate the positive qualities of their relationships more favorably than men do as well. The quality of the relationship between mothers and daughters does not change how frequently they meet. Usually mothers and daughters meet at least once a week and talk 3 or 4 times without very much variation. The emotional qualities of a mother’s relationship with her children changes as they age. Younger daughters value conversation with their mothers as a way of gathering information. The positive qualities of mother-daughter relationship seem to improve as daughters enter adulthood but the negative qualities may increase as the daughter enters midlife when they start to invest more in family members. The early connection might have something to do with how daughters define themselves. As women grow older, the investment in family members becomes more important to mothers. Daughters benefit from caring for elderly mothers if they are in poor health so emphasis shifts to doing things like cooking for the mother. The characteristics of their relationship tend to wax and wane over adulthood as social roles shift. Mothers tend to view children as extensions of their self. In cultures where there is less autonomy, there may be more investment in the relationship and nurturance. There may be more emphasis on the mother daughter relationship in ethnic groups. Most daughters want to live close to their family unless they are in college or the relationship with family is troubled. Both mothers and daughters have similar developmental needs that change as they age. Mothers take pride in younger daughter’s newfound abilities and enjoy the enhanced connection. Younger daughters tend to be more self-absorbed with their own development, less attentive toward their mothers, and less involved with family members until midlife. Daughters may need assistance from their mothers in figuring out adult roles and autonomy. By midlife, daughters tend to recognize the unique characteristics of their mothers. Older daughters are reciprocal with doing things for their mothers. There is more differentiation during middle age. Mothers and daughters develop trust and openness with each other in place of idealization. Conflicts peaked during teenage years. Overall mothers and daughters value their relationships and enjoy interacting throughout adulthood. Older daughters tend to worry about their older parents and older mothers find the daughters concern reassuring even when they do not really need it. Once they work through younger daughter’s development their focus shifts to the larger family and grandchildren. Extended families have challenges of adjustment and less satisfaction but mothers and daughters tend to shift focus to these extended family members during midlife. Older mothers shift focus back to their own needs and seek reassurance. "We had a nice little chat over tea." More...

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