7 Types of Unhealthy Mother-Daughter Relationships and How Each Affects Your Life

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unhealthy mother-daughter relationships

There are more unhealthy mother-daughter relationships than you might think. In fact, it’s possible that the connection with your own daughter is flawed.

What you once thought was normal behavior may, in fact, be toxic. There are little indicators that prove you’ve witnessed unhealthy mother-daughter relationships, which are in dire need of repair. Those snarky remarks aren’t cute and no, they are not to be looked over. These things are signs of trouble, and if you can catch them in time, you may be able to save your relationship. If not, your entire life can be infected by bitterness.

Discovering the flawed connection

Unhealthy mother-daughter relationships come in various forms. There are no singular ways to describe the characteristics. On the other hand, these relationships can be placed in categories to help you understand the types. Here are a few examples and how they affect your future.

The controlling relationship

This form of parenting is seen quite often in mother-daughter relationships. It is also considered a normal way of parenting for mothers who have endured the same behavior from their own mothers. Controlling mothers pay little attention to their daughter’s feelings and needs. They often project a set of needs onto their daughter and say that it’s for their daughter’s “own good”.

At the same time, the mother will keep the daughter pressed down so that it’s easier to control the entirety of her life. The daughter complies because she believes she is never good enough to do things on her own. Behavior like this can affect how the daughter performs in school or work and keeps her from reaching higher goals. It can also become the same parenting technique for when the daughter has a daughter of her own.

The critical relationship

It’s okay to be critical of some things, but it’s unhealthy to nit-pick everything your daughter says or does. Being overly critical is seen in many mother-daughter relationships. This is why we see so many mothers pressuring their daughters to be more, do more and look better.

If a young woman fails, her critical mother will recognize each failure and make it larger than it really is. Enduring a critical mother can make it hard for a daughter to love herself properly. She will never think she’s good enough.

Fighting relationships

My aunt had three daughters, and she fought terribly with all of them. However, the youngest daughter seemed to make her blood boil. My aunt would grab her by the hair and throw her across the room. I’m surprised she was never arrested for child abuse. The point I’m making in saying this is some mother-daughter relationships are one big fight, all the time. To them, it’s normal to “raise hell”.

Unfortunately, abuse or even just constant fighting can cause so much damage to a woman. She will never be able to see her mother as a loving and caring protector. Some daughters see their mothers as the enemy, and that’s a shame.

The big joke

Sometimes mother-daughter relationships can seem like one big joke, literally. In many families, parents, both mothers, and fathers thrive on poking fun at their children.

This can be okay if it’s only occasional joking. But when a mother jokes about her daughter constantly, it can cause psychological damage. After the same jokes are told, the child starts to believe these are facts, insults that the parent want to make but put them in comedic form.

Children are smart. They hear redundant things and they read between the lines. While some mothers simply enjoy cracking jokes about their children, they don’t realize that their words have the power to make or break their daughter’s self-esteem.

Mama drama

Some relationships between mothers and daughters are dramatic productions. Simple communication is just not enough to satisfy this toxic mother. She must make every mistake seem like the end of the world. The family drama includes screaming, throwing things and insults, designed to instill fear into the other person.

Mothers who use such drama believe that there is no other way to get their point across without blowing everything out of proportion. The long-term effects of this for daughters means the possibility of experiencing PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or passing on the same behavior to later generations.

The dismissive relationship

One of the most hurtful relationships between mother and daughter is the dismissive type. This sort of relationship leaves the daughter feeling as if she doesn’t exist. The mother always has her own agenda and despite how hard the daughter begs for her attention, the mother cannot see the effort.

This relationship form can lead to low self-esteem and constant competitiveness. The daughter will continue to seek the attention that she did not receive from her mother and fail to provide the same attention needed by her own daughter.

No boundaries

Opposite of the dismissive relationship is the one with no boundaries. Some mothers are always snooping around and invading privacy, or as they call it, “just being concerned for their children”. I bet you’ve heard that before. Maybe you are the mother trying to break the passcode on your daughter’s phone…tsk tsk.

Well, it’s actually healthy to have boundaries between mother and daughter, but it’s a fine line. While you want to make sure you are keeping your offspring safe, you also want to give them room to be themselves. As for adult mothers and daughters, yes, your child still needs healthy boundaries with you.

A mother-daughter relationship can be healthy

For unhealthy mother-daughter relationships, I think, before tackling these issues, you should find time to sit and just communicate. As a matter of fact, when was the last time you actually talked to your daughter? I don’t mean when you delegated responsibilities or you reprimanded them for a bad decision. Adult mothers: I also don’t mean when you fought with her about her own parenting skills.

When I say communicate, I mean getting to know each other as individuals. This is a great way to be fair and to set ground rules for the household. Communication opens pathways to these other issues so that you can find ways to repair all the toxic symptoms.

Yes, I do believe mothers and daughters can have a healthy relationship. So let’s get started now!


  1. https://www.romper.com
  2. https://www.psychologytoday.com
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Sherrie is a freelance writer and artist with over 10 years of experience. She spends most of her time giving life to the renegade thoughts. As the words erupt and form new life, she knows that she is yet again free from the nagging persistence of her muse. She is a mother of three and a lifetime fan of the thought-provoking and questionable aspects of the universe.

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  1. Jeanine Galvan November 12, 2017 at 4:14 am - Reply

    Gratitude as SUPER POWER! The LOVE/Hate relationship is steady these days because of understanding and ACCEPTANCE. I have found MY VOICE in defense of MY Buddha/Godly nature. I deserve to be treated with LOVE and respect. A voice I never heard from my mom or my ever suffering in silence grandmother. NO joy no hugs or kisses, no one saying or showing unconditional “LOVE” in her household.
    I feel so sorry for my 3 aunts, 2 uncles and younger cousins. Only one survived the brutality of OUR upbringing…This mother/daughter negative karma ends with me in this life-time. I’m sooo glad I had a son at 35 and only after years of therapy as NOT to treat people as I had been treated. NO you don’t put black & blue welts on a 3 yr old or anybody for that matter!
    It would have been hard NOT to behave with the same harsh demeaning and very often cruel; mentally, physically and emotionally that was part of my younger years as was with my mother in her day.
    WE teach what WE have been taught…I come to find out as a result of trauma mom is bi-polar she had and still has NO self control of her mouth the things she says when her confidence fails or when feeling unloved is her ONLY concern. Heaven help us if you want to discuss the confusion and pain.
    Efforts at communication will meet the same blaming scenario for the last 55 yrs; “I don’t want to hear it”, “I don’t want t talk about it”, “don’t tell me anything I don’t want to hear”, “are YOU crazy”, “what’s got into YOU”, and with a wave of the dismissive hand you are pushed a way, ignored or laughed at.
    Is it any wonder this woman claims to be partially deaf even though she DOES have selective hearing? I come to find out what I thought was MY masochistic nature all these years is in reality COMPASSION and UNDERSTANDING for her very unhappy life.
    Now there’s a positive spin on things. I want this woman to be happy and healthy, to be loved and to LOVE in all of its truth. I WILL NOT END UP UNHAPPY LIKE HER! I’m not her I’m me. I’m different in many ways and yet the same in all that is GOOD, kind and LOVING about my mom and others. What a journey…I joke with people if I ever get so ungrateful and mean please just take me out back and shoot me…:) Namaste’ peace

    • Sherrie November 20, 2017 at 6:53 pm - Reply

      Thank you for reading, Jeanine.

      I applaud your strength and the ability to still show love toward your mother. I have lived on both sides of this situation, as my father had bipolar disorder and so do I. I catch myself being self-absorbed and ridiculous on many occasions, and on the other occasions, my children tell me. I have said the same things that your mother said and tried to dismiss my children’s concerns, but I am trying harder to be a better mother to them.

      As for my father, nothing seemed to be good enough and when he didn’t want to deal with us kids, he would just shut hi
      myself in his bedroom and sulk. So, I am trying to understand my ups from my downs, my wrongs from my rights and heal from the past at the same time. As I said, I am proud of you for speaking these things. You never know who you will touch in the process.

      Namaste 🙂

  2. Jenny January 21, 2018 at 2:13 pm - Reply

    Hi..I just came across ur article..n I wanted to say abt my situation.. My mom is a nice person at heart..very generous and hardworking. But v don’t talk. In fact ever since my growing up years, I used to never want to talk to her. She has always misunderstood me..even the simplest of conversations we try to have, its always an argument at the end. Now I am married n I am blessed with an amazing husband. But she had few issues during the wedding due to difference of opinion with his parents. My father has put everything behind but she hasn’t unfortunately. She still picks a fight if I try to talk to her. She feels m selfish n materialistic n I have switched sides n no more am attached to my own parents. She feels I don’t see the truth as she does n is always full of complains..I’m tired of this. I’m tired of her negativity

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