Mothers are more critical of their daughters than they are of their sons, according to a British survey.
Netmums, a British parenting web site, conducted a study in which it interviewed over 2500 mothers about the different ways they treated boys and girls. 88% of mothers surveyed said they treated their sons differently to their daughters, even though many of these moms also felt they were wrong in doing so. 55% of mothers said they had stronger bonds with their sons. 21% of the moms taking part in the study reported they tended to criticize their daughters more than their sons.
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There's a more positive way to interpret this data: writer Terri Apter of British newspaper The Guardian says that since gender is one of society's foremost markers of identity, it's easier for moms and daughters to project their insecurities and self-judgments onto one another. Identifying with each other in this way often leads to criticism of each other. However, this criticism can help the mother-daughter relationship grow, and assist a daughter in finding her own identity and independence as she challenges and internalizes her mother's opinion of her. "Closeness involves mutual understanding as much as cosy feelings," Apter reminds us. "Questions about "bonding" do not allow this crucial aspect of relationship to emerge."
Also, Apter notes, the study's based on a mother's own opinion of her behavior - it doesn't take into account other people's views of her. We all know we can be extra hard on ourselves when we believe we've behaved wrongly. If her children or parents were also surveyed, a different, slightly less bleak picture of her critical behavior might emerge.