A mother's closeness makes it less likely for her teenage daughter to enter into an abusive relationship, even when other factors are working against that. Past studies on abusive family environments have shown that kids who grow up in an unstable home are more likely to enter into an abusive relationship. Sadly, being abused or witnessing abuse at home early in life is a risk factor for experiencing abuse throughout life.
However, a new study shows how a strong mother-daughter bond can prevent this potential fate from becoming reality.
Teens who share a close bond with their mothers are less likely to enter into an abusive relationship, even if they witness marital conflict between their parents. The study, which was conducted at the University of Buffalo, found that a mother's positive parenting and warm acceptance had an extremely powerful effect on the quality of her daughter's romantic relationships.
The findings contradict previous studies, which have found that teenagers mimic their parents' relationships, including any abusive patterns. Out of the 140 adolescents surveyed, half had an alcoholic father. That put many of the mothers in a conflict-filled marriage.
Despite these circumstances, the girls who reported a strong mother-daughter bond in the eighth grade had a lower risk of experiencing dating violence later in their teens. That says something pretty huge about the power of a mother's love.
According to lead investigator Jennifer Livingston, Ph.D., children form ideas about themselves and others based on their family relationships. Kids who grow up around abuse will often see themselves as unloveable and others as a threat. These conceptions are what's behind the phenomenon of "inherited" abuse.
A warm, loving relationship with one parent could be enough to turn those ideas around.
Abuse is damaging no matter how you spin it. If you are in an abusive situation, do whatever it takes to ensure your safety and your children's. But if your marriage is rocky or things are not perfect at home, remember how much of a difference you make.