The Mother-Adolescent Daughter Relationship

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In comparison to the past generations, adolescents nowadays devote less of their time interrelating with close family members than they spend with friends; in school, in part-time jobs, and so forth. That being said, family and particularly the parent-adolescent relationship, offers opportunities for teenagers or adolescents to acquire and develop communication and social skills that enable them to develop, self-confidence, self-efficacy, and their own voice. As regards to adolescent girls especially, the family and particularly the mother is considered a very important person from whom the young woman can learn her identity, how to behave, her social skills, and so on (Koesten, Miller and Hummert 7). The mother-teenage daughter relationship is, therefore, very special; and no matter how rocky it can get sometimes; it is a relationship whose effects can last a lifetime. The nature of the mother-adolescent daughter relationship is, therefore, very important as it is essential in determining the degree to which identity, voice, and other important life skills are developed in the young woman.

The mother-daughter relationship is so important that Deborah Tannen a Linguistics professor at Georgetown University refers to it as the ‘mother of all relationships’ (Tannen 1). She argues that mothers and daughters are part of a long shared history; as a matter of fact, a shared lifetime, in the case of the daughters (Tannen 113). That being said, the mother-adolescent daughter relationship is very exceptional among the various combinations of parent-adolescent relationships – father-son, mother-son, father-daughter, and so on – in that it tends to bring out the best and worst in both the mothers and daughters. Parent-adolescent disagreements, for instance, are more common and intense between mothers and their adolescent daughters than between mothers and their adolescent sons; between fathers and their adolescent sons or daughters; and so on (Allison and Schultz 102). Adolescents of both genders are also more likely to confide with their mothers than otherwise. In addition to that, research also indicates that adolescent daughters resort to topic avoidance less often with their mothers than they do with their fathers (Golish and Cauglin 78). It has also been shown that although mothers often give the same kind of support to both daughters and sons; daughters need, appreciate, and tend to value their mother’s help more than sons (Trees 703).

The relationship between mothers and their adolescent daughters is also arguably the most passionate and most fraught among all the parent-children relationships. For one, as women, it is often assumed that both mother and the daughter speak the same language. However, this is not often the case. Mothers and their adolescent daughters often than not disagree with each other on many issues. Sure, there will always be a feeling of connection; nevertheless, there is also always a desire especially on the part of the daughter to be independent. In fact, according to Tannen, both daughters and mothers prefer to be considered individuals or independent but it is often not easy; considering that mothers will always see their teenage daughters as their children and, therefore, in need of their supervision and protection. Conversely, daughters will always consider their mothers as their custodians; people to depend on; people to seek protection from and not as confidantes (Tannen).

            Having said that, it has been argued that the most beneficial relationship between a mother and her teenage daughter is the one which is based on flexibility, coordination, and mutual sensitivity; a relationship in which both the mother and daughter feel confirmed and appreciated and are both able to assist each other tackle emerging difficulties or problems (Sillars, Koerner and Fitzpatrick 106). That is, a mother who candidly communicates, pays attention, and even argues with her daughter is more likely to be successful at developing her daughter’s self-efficacy, self-esteem, and other vital skills not only within her home and among her family members but with her friends, schoolmates, colleagues and so on as well. Teenage girls who have mothers who have a candid and liberal communication culture are more likely to be confident, voice their views, make their own decisions and maintain their boundaries. Conversely, teenager daughters who have mothers who have a strict and conservative communication culture are more likely to be diffident, shy, and hesitant in all their interactions. They are also more likely to be indecisive, lack self-confidence and more likely to participate in risky activities. The capacity to candidly express views and assert independence is, therefore, essential to adolescent growth and development. As a matter of fact, teenage daughters who communicate more readily and more regularly with their mothers and in a candid manner have been known to outdo those who do not in acquisition of essential skills that enable them to handle better risk factors like anxiety, drug abuse, depression, sexual activities, just to name a few (Koesten, Miller and Hummert 25).

            Furthermore, as mentioned before, benefits of a successful mother-teenage daughter relationship goes beyond the teenager and the immediate family to other relationships such as between the teenager and her classmates and so on. A successful mother-teenage daughter relationship is often measured by the degree of their attachment. Well attached teenagers have been found to possess better social competence; additionally, they have been found to interact more positively with their friends and are, therefore, more liked by their friends than teenagers with weak attachments (Allen 1406). This just goes to show that teenage daughters who have strong relationships with their mothers are more likely to consider their friends, classmates, and colleagues as trustworthy. They are also more likely to view themselves as deserving of positive relationships. It is also reasonable to surmise that a good mother-teenager daughter relationship teaches the teenager important social skills that they transfer to other relationships.

            Adolescence is an extremely crucial period in the development of identity. It is often around this time that teenage girls defy the roles that their mothers decide for them and try out other roles and individualities that might sometimes go against their mothers’ values. It is worth pointing out that, for as long as teenagers are working to be more independent from their mothers and fathers, decreases in intimacy will be more frequent. This is usually followed by topic avoidance and frequent conflicts. As evidence of adolescent’s increased need for independence; teenagers often avoid their parents through rudeness, rejection, deception, and even violence. This ironically limits their likelihood of ever attaining the much-desired autonomy and self-efficacy. In fact, according to Pinquart and Silbereisen, isolation is linked to more negative effects such as a lack of self-confidence, hostility, more rejection of others and so forth (Pinquart and Silbereisen 509)

Research done on teenage girls who have experienced abuse suggests that not all entertain self-harming thoughts. Nevertheless, research on those who have entertained such thoughts indicates that poor relationships between mothers and their teenage daughters are associated with suicidal thoughts. As a matter of fact, interruptions of good mother-teenage daughter relationships is one of the key reasons why teenagers who have suffered maltreatment are more likely to self-harm or attempt suicide. Sincere, nurturing, and reliable relationship between children and their mother is, therefore, very important for children’s development; this continues to be the case even in their teenage years (Handley).

Years of research suggests that often than not mothers criticize their daughters more than they do their sons. This is often the case in families with a boy and girl as the only children. It is true that mothers can criticize any of their children; it is, after all, part of being a mother. Nevertheless, research indicates that a majority of teenage girls feel that their mothers hate them for being who they are (Laursen).  This is because mothers who hope their daughters would avoid the mistakes that they themselves made often offer advice to their daughters in a manner that sounds like criticism. Additionally, daughters devote too much of their time trying to attain their mothers’ expectations of them and when they fail they become frustrated and hopeless. Good communication between mothers and their teenage daughters is, however, the key to reducing these tensions between teenage daughters and mothers.

The relationship between a mother and their teenage daughter is unique and special in many ways. This relationship is, for instance, not only full of love and tenderness but also full of tension and deep sensitivity. In fact, a majority of relationships between mothers and their teenage daughters are often characterized by tension. The reason is often that teenage daughters are always trying to get independence from their mother while simultaneously trying to please their mothers.

Work Cited

Allen, Joseph, P. "Attachment and adolescent psychosocial functioning." Child Development 69.5 (1998): 1406-1419.

Allison, Barbara, N and Jerelyn B Schultz. "Parent-adolescent conflict in early adolescence." Adolescence 39.153 (2004): 101-120.

Golish, Tamara and John Cauglin. "I'd rather not talk about it": adolescents' and young adults' use of topic avoidance in stepfamilies." Journal of Applied Communication Research 30.1 (2002): 78-106.

Handley, Elizabeth, D. "Mother–Daughter Interpersonal Processes Underlying the Association Between Child Maltreatment and Adolescent Suicide Ideation ." Suicide and Life‐Threatening Behavior (2018).

Koesten, J, K, I Miller and M, L, Hummert. " Family communication, self-efficacy, and white female adolescents’ risk behavior. Journal of Family." Communication 2.1 (2001): 7-27.

Laursen, Brett. "Conflict and social interaction in adolescent relationships ." Journal of research on adolescence 5.1 (1995): 55-70.

Pinquart, Martin and Rainer, K Silbereisen. "Changes in adolescents' and mothers' autonomy and connectedness in conflict discussions: An observational study." Journal of Adolescence 25.5 (2002): 509-522.

Sillars, Alan, Ascan Koerner and Mary, Anne Fitzpatrick. "Communication and understanding in parent-adolescent relationships ." Human Communication Research 31.1 (2005): 102-128.

Tannen, Deborah. You're wearing that?: Understanding mothers and daughters in conversation. Ballantine Books, 2006.

Trees, April, R. "The influence of relational context on support processes: Points of difference and similarity between young adult sons and daughters in problem talk with mothers." Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 19.5 (2002): 703-722.

Wagner, Barry M, Patricia Cohen, and Judith Brook. "Parent/adolescent relationships: Moderators of the effects of stressful life events." Journal of Adolescent Research 11.3 (1996): 347-374.

August 21, 2023


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