Mother-Daughter Relationship: Importance And Ways To Improve

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Several people have described a mother-daughter relationship in different ways. Some say, ‘A mother’s treasure is her daughter.’ And others say, ‘While a mother’s treasure is her daughter, a daughter’s sunshine is her mother.’

A mother is a role model, best friend, and a pillar of strength for her daughter. For the mother, her daughter is her world.

As soon as a daughter is born, her mother develops a strong bond with her. As the daughter grows, their relationship changes, but the feelings remain the same.

However, sometimes, there are situations when this beautiful relationship wobbles. This affects both mother and daughter. In such circumstances, it is essential to address the issues and make the relationship better.

This post discusses the relationship between a mother and daughter and gives tips on how to improve it further.

Why Is A Mother-Daughter Relationship So Important?

According to the Journal of Neuroscience, the mother-daughter relationship is known to be stronger than other parent-offspring relationship (1). And this is one relationship that helps a woman carve out every other relationship in life. Hence, it is a valuable relationship for every woman.

Also, it is one such relationship that keeps shifting its nature. As the years go by, certain tricky turns do arrive. That’s usually because of the generation gap. Or when mothers try to protect their daughters by creating certain paraimeters And their daughters rebel. No wonder people say, ‘like mother, like daughter.’

As every mother-daughter relationship is unique, the rapport shared differs from one to another. Some mother-daughter relationships can have a twisted bond right from the beginning, while some can take a difficult route when the daughter starts growing. Any of the dysfunctional patterns between a mother and a daughter could make the bond detrimental.

Types Of Unhealthy Mother-Daughter Relationships

Although the relationship between mother and daughter is powerful, it can be challenging. If no effort is made for improvement, it can turn out to be unhealthy. Let us check out some kinds of unhealthy mother-daughter relationships.

1. Controlling relationship

Mother controlling her daughter can strain a healthy relationship.

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Some people think that the controlling behavior of the mother is a normal parenting style. But it is not. It takes away the freedom from the daughter and shrinks her desires and passion. Whether the mother is controlling her daughter during her formative years or it is after the daughter has grown up (maybe when she is teen or adult) both strain a healthy relationship.

There are different ways of controlling, while some show anger or indifference, some of them use emotional blackmail. Such a controlling mother-daughter relationship is also termed as a boss-subordinate relationship as the mother tries to monitor and control her daughter’s activities. And the daughter, on the other hand, does everything to please her mother and to get her acceptance.

In some cases, mothers try to control their daughters for protective reasons. Although the intention might not be negative, the outcome surely is. Any controlling nature is considered ill in a mother and daughter relationship.

2. Emotional disconnect

In the case of emotional disturbances, daughters usually look for their mothers. And when the mother is not available, they may either become lonely or get closer to another member of the family (grandparent, or father, or uncle or aunt).

When the mother distances herself from her daughter, it causes a disconnect in the relationship. Also, this kind of upbringing may leave emotional scars. Hence, this is considered as a dysfunctional mother and daughter relationship.

Furthermore, there are some relationships in which the mother is both physically and emotionally absent for her daughter when she needs her the most. Or there is no physical touch, such as hugging or holding hands between the mother and the daughter. This kind of connection is termed as a ghost relationship.

3. Judgmental relationship

It is okay to mold the daughter to shape her well. But getting critical of her daughter’s every move can add bitterness to the relationship. Ideally, mothers are supposed to encourage and support their daughters and not criticize them at every step of the way.

If the ability to be independent is taken away that may suppress her ability to grow in life. In such kind of parent-child relationship, neither the daughter nor the mother is satisfied. And with every passing day, the relationship takes a noxious turn.

4. Trophy child

In this kind of relationship, the mother uses her daughter just to show off her good qualities or achievements, without thinking about her daughter’s likes and dislikes. The daughter is unhappy most of the time, as her life is being used by her mother to grab the attention of others.

In certain cases of this mother-daughter relationship, the mother uses different forms of communication, such as physical force or verbal abuse. The mother’s unreasonable expectations from her daughter, while the daughter keeps craving for maternal presence. When a mother and daughter share such a relationship, it is completely toxic.

5. Enmity relationship

Regular fights can cause resentment.

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Disagreements are common in any relationship, and it also happens with mother and daughter. When fights become regular, competitiveness arises in a relationship. That again leads to resentment. Constant fighting us not healthy in a relationship.

With such a relationship, the daughter may consider her mother as a rival and not as someone who loves her unconditionally.

6. Bosom buddies

One of the common types of relationships shared by mothers and daughters is called an enmeshed relationship. The relationship is affectionate as the mother treats her daughter as a best friend. Both of them share their interests, feelings, and many other things.

While parenting this way, the mother might overlook teaching her daughter proper boundaries. This lack of boundaries would certainly affect the daughter in her ability to grow and have interests and relationships.

7. Role reversal

This pattern in a relationship between mother and daughter usually occurs in the latter part of life. Here, the mother wants support emotionally or financially from her daughter. The daughter’s life is restricted, having to provide everything that her mother requires. Such a kind of relationship is not healthy.

8. Estranged relationship

Estrangement means emotional distancing. There are various reasons behind why a daughter and mother could get estranged. It might occur at any stage in life. Some of the reasons include mother divorcing or marrying another person, daughter or mother disrespecting a spouse, and mother-daughter boundaries being ignored. In such cases, there are few chances of mending the mother and daughter relationship.

A damaged mother-daughter relationship does have chances to repair the relationship.

Effects Of Faulty Mother-Daughter Relationship

The first bond that a girl has is with her mother, and so it leaves a great impact on her entire life. If the bond between a mother and daughter is balanced — with kindness, care, love, carefulness, and some limitations — the relationship is respectful and will blossom. But a damaged relationship would have adverse effects.

  • Low self-esteem: The first attachment of a daughter is with her mother. And this relationship sets the mark for other relationships. The bond between a mother and daughter willreflect on the daughter’s future. A healthy bond shapes the ability to have self-confidence. But an unhealthy relationship would make her doubt herself, resulting in low self-esteem. On the other hand, even a mother is affected when her bond with the daughter is not going as she had expected.
  • Depression: According to a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, maternal disengagement could be responsible for depressive disorder in children and young adults (2). When the daughter does not share a good relationship with her mother, she might tend to have symptoms of depression. A flawed relationship also adversely affects a mother, and might even take a toll on her health.

    Maternal disengagement could lead to depressive disorder in children.

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  • Attachment issues: When the major relationship in a woman’s life, such as her bond with her mother, is wounded, she might experience difficulty in trusting and staying loyal to her future relations. She might have insecurities in connecting with others during adulthood.
  • Hostility: When the relationship between mother and daughter is dysfunctional, there arise consistent conflicts at home. This leaves an impact on the daughter, and she might become hostile and aggressive even with others.

There might be many reasons for an unhealthy relationship between a mother and a daughter.

But.. as Nancy Thayer said, ‘It’s never too late – in fiction or in life – to revise.’

Though you cannot turn the pages back, you can still fill the next chapter with something good. No relationship can replace a mother’s love for her daughter. That means there are still ways to improve the bond or build your relationship.

Ways To Improve Mother-Daughter Relationship

Take the lead. Irrespective of whatever has happened in the past, either should make the first step to resolve the conflicts of your relationship.

1. Active listener

Listen to your daughter and try to understand her.

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It’s hard to listen when you’re thinking about your own thoughts,’ said Faye E Hage.

Most of the time, you may assume that you are right. Instead of assuming anything, listen carefully to your mother or daughter. Listen without interrupting or analyzing. You can ask questions and get the answers to avoid any more disagreements or confusion. This is the way to connect easily.

2. Walk in her shoes

You never know what your mother or daughter is thinking about until you are in her shoes.when you try to understand from your mother’s or daughter’s perspective, then you may find it easy to reach mutual ground.

3. Open communication

Most of the misunderstandings occur due to no communication at all. Mother and daughter should be open to having healthy and honest communication. For instance, as a mother, if you don’t like your daughter spending the night at a friend’s place,  you should convey it to her by explaining the reasons. On the other hand, as a daughter, if you don’t like your mother’s over-protective behavior, let her know why. softer and emotionally safe communication will surely prove to be effective.

One of the effective ways to have a conversation is to use ‘I’ instead of ‘you.’ For instance, ‘I am feeling sad,’ rather than ‘You are making me depressed.’ Try it and see how it works.

4. Better boundaries

Irrespective of how close a mother-daughter relationship is, there have to be certain boundaries. Mother and daughter can be best friends, but there has to be healthy boundaries. This not only helps in improving the bond but also maintains a respectful relationship.

5. Forgiveness

Let go of the grudges and forgive her.

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let go of some grudges and forgive to maintain healthy relationships. A mother and daughter canhave plenty of conflicts, but at the end of the day, work to forgive and forget for a warm hug.

6. Quick heal

Usually, we tend to withdraw after an episode of arguments. If this withdrawal goes on to longthe gap between mother and daughter could increase. Instead of waiting, it is better to talk with each other and sort out the matter quickly. This will heal the wounds faster.

7. Acceptance

The mother and daughter are two different individuals with different perspectivesInstead of arguing and trying to always win the discussion, both the mother and the daughter should accept that sometimes there can be no mutual solutions. It is better to agree to disagree and move on in life.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How does a mother influence her daughter?

A mother greatly influences her daughter’s outlook on life and social interactions. A mother’s relationship with her daughter sets the foundation for their relationship in years to come. Due to this, the influence of a mother on her daughter lasts for a lifetime.

2. How to repair a mother-daughter relationship?

To repair a broken mother-daughter relationship, you must communicate effectively and be willing to listen and understand each other’s points of view. Discuss the issues that plague your relationship and come up with pragmatic solutions. Forgive each other even when you are hurt and running high on emotions, and express your affection through words and actions.

3. How to describe a mother-daughter relationship?

A mother and daughter share a special bond. A mother’s love for her daughter is unconditional and cannot be described in words. The relationship is characterized by love, warmth, affection, and care.

The mother-daughter relationship may vary among individuals, but each bond is unique and irreplaceable. Mothers and daughters may become best buddies and have the most fulfilling relationship. However, the bond may be tricky for some. For a mother, excessive controlling behavior, being judgemental, or using the daughter as a trophy child may cause emotional distancing, and the daughter may become a rebel. A bad or hostile relationship may cause low self-esteem or traits of depression in the child. Improving communication can pave the way for a reunion. Patch up soon, and heal each other’s wounds to strengthen the bond of unconditional love.

Key Pointers

  • The relationship between a mother and a daughter is special and unique in its ways.
  • Some mother and daughter bonds could be strained or unhealthy due to emotional disconnect or estrangement.
  • Having open communication, listening to each other, and forgiving can help strengthen the bond.


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Shikha Thakur

Shikha is a writer-turned-associate editor at MomJunction. Having done a certification in Relationship Coaching, her core interest lies in writing articles that guide couples through their courtship to marriage and parenthood. She also specializes in baby names. Being a postgraduate in Human Resources from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, she likes understanding people and their relationships. This reflects in her relationship... more

Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin

Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin is a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist (Advanced Clinician) and Certified Imago Workshop Presenter. Together with his wife Rivka, he founded The Marriage Restoration Project, a global initiative to help keep couples together and happy. Rabbi Slatkin has made it their mission to help save marriages in two days by way of marriage intensive retreats. He has also... more