Mother-Daughter Conflict

Presumably, the most enduring relationship most women have is with their mothers. Researchers suggest that daughters form an attachment bond with their mothers during infancy and rarely discontinue their relationship irrespective of the bond. Working as a healthcare provider for geriatric clients, specifically aging mothers, I often notice mothers request their daughter over their sons for emotional support. Research conducted on mother-daughter dyads who were chronically subject to conflict revealed that despite experiencing negative emotion and resentment, daughters seldom end their relationship with their mothers.

One could be curious why women pursue a conflictual and emotionally jarring relationship. Grounded theory researchers discovered that daughters frame their current relationship on their perception of childhood injustice perpetrated by their mothers. Childhood injustices identified were: unfulfilled maternal role obligation enforced power-dependency and unstable family environment. As a result of which their adult relationship with their mother often manifested with a tone of hostility, anger, resentment, and powerlessness. Despite this, daughters express a strong desire to maintain a relationship with their mother in hopes of pursuing the dream relationship, seeking validation, and out of a sense of obligation.

As a healthcare provider, I am concerned for obligation driven daughters with insecure-attachment who may be at risk for negative consequences as a result of shouldering the caregiving burden. A safe therapeutic dialogical intervention may hold the blueprint for repairing a long-term ruptured relationship between a mother and daughter. The Imago dialogical process used in individual or couple’s therapy helps women to uncover the source of their resentment and hostility and how it is not only playing out in their family of origin but in their current intimate relationship. A supportive spouse may offer validation to suffice the unmet need from the mother. An empathetic support system to nurture early wounded women is recommended to create a loving and emotionally corrective mother-daughter relationship.