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Children's and parenting health centre

Mother-daughter bonding

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

No one loves you as much as your mum and in some cases no one has the capacity to irritate you as much either!

The mother-daughter relationship is one of the most, if not THE most, important relationships in your life but there are times when it can be volatile.

Mums are usually the main care givers and spend the most time with their young daughters so the role they play has a big influence.

Numerous studies underline the importance of the relationship. One US study found the mother-daughter relationship determines a girl's future relationship, skill and self-esteem. When mums are overbearing and critical their daughters are more likely to have poor social skills and unhealthy eating habits, compared to girls with more supportive mums.

Age matters

The relationship changes at different ages.

As a young child a daughter perhaps likes to copy her mum and maybe puts her on a pedestal. Mum's definitely the one in charge so there aren't too many power struggles!

When mums and daughters are both adults and the mum treats the daughter as a child there can be friction.

The most testing time for the relationship is when the daughter is hitting puberty and going through the teenage years. So what causes friction?


Many mums strive to teach their girls to be strong and confident, then sometimes don't like it when they put those traits into action and are feisty and argumentative.

"When our children are young, we often say we want them to learn to be confident and to be independent," says parenting coach and author Lorraine Thomas. "We want them to be their own person and it is precisely when we see this behaviour that we can find it most challenging and tough to deal with."


Mums may have a tendency to criticise their daughters. It may be about what they wear, their hair or even their weight, which can store up problems.

Mothers genuinely believe they are sharing their wisdom with their daughters, giving them the benefit of their expert knowledge but it can be hurtful and unconstructive.

Daughters take their mother's words to heart, even if they don't show it.


Fussy mums infuriate daughters. Put a cardigan on you'll be cold! Remember to cross the road when the green man's flashing!

"It's very easy for mums to overreact and be too protective of their daughters, which can ultimately drive a wedge between parent and child," says Siobhan Freegard, founder of Netmums.

Mums feel responsible for their daughter's safety, that's understandable, but there comes a time when you have to let them off the reins and give them freedom to make their own decisions.

As Karen Doherty, parenting expert and author puts it: "Children are individuating while parents are trying to protect them, and the transition to independence isn't always smooth."

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