Mothers with daughters may do well to bite their tongue before dishing out more unsolicited advice or criticism, after a recent study found that overbearing moms can produce women with poor social skills and disordered eating attitudes.
According to research out of the University of Georgia in the US, more than overall family dynamics, it’s the mother-daughter relationship that determines a woman’s personal development when it comes to social competence.
And when mothers were hyper-involved and overly critical, daughters tended to have poorer social and relationship skills, which in turn led to higher levels of disordered eating attitudes like body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, unhealthy weight practices and overall bruised self-esteem.
For their study, published in the journal Communication Monographs last week, researchers collected data from 286 “triad” families consisting of a mother, young adult daughter (average age 21) and another adult sibling.
The offspring rated their interaction patterns with family members, and both mothers and daughters rated the daughter’s social skills and her ability to form positive relations with others.
Daughters also rated their levels of depression, self-esteem, loneliness, self-perceptions of body shape, diet, and food preoccupation.
The result? Relationships fraught with overly involved and critical moms risked sabotaging the daughters’ personal outcomes.
Other research out of the UK also suggests that girls may be at higher risk for depression if their parents’ relationship is hostile or if there is a negative mother-daughter relationship.
A University of Leicester study also found that children who blamed themselves for their parents’ conflict were more likely to display
anti-social behaviour, whereas children who feared the breakup of the family were more likely to experience depression.