Daughter see, daughter do



Studies show how much women's behavior affects girls

Studies show how much maternal behavior affects girls


It can be jarring when someone speaks their mind, because our culture encourages keeping objections to ourselves to maintain the status quo. We often don’t realize we’re self-silencing until after the fact.

Women, in particular, are encouraged not to speak out. So when a woman speaks up, especially if she’s expressing a feminist attitude, that goes against the grain of an accepted sexist situation, it can be an even bigger risk and can cause quite a stir.

Yet a University of Georgia study indicates that daughters who are raised by and are around women who speak their minds have better relationships and better mental health in general. And mothers whose daughters are in good relationships have better mental health, too. So, according to this study, stirring certain things up, may possibly be awkward in the short term, but it can have long-term mental health benefits across the board.

Although not part of the study, I daresay even the men, with whom these daughters and mothers live, ultimately benefit from feminist women speaking their truths and using their voices confidently. 

Two strong-willed women raised me – my mother and maternal grandmother – and they were notorious for speaking and acting their minds, come what may (and a lot came down, incidentally). And I have lived most of my adult life in a feminist household, raised a son in that house, where articulating one’s mind can sometimes cause friction. Yet there’s never been a “moment of truth,” whether intentional or accidental, that I regret. 

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For UGA Today, Heather Skyler writes: “The study revealed that a mother’s feminist attitudes impact her daughter’s ‘voice’ – and her ability to speak her mind in close relationships. And daughters with a stronger ability to speak their minds have better mental health too, according to the study.”

The mutual benefit of mothers and daughters freely using their voice and, not self-silencing, is known as “reciprocal socialization.”

The study’s lead author, Analisa Arroyo, associate professor in UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, says, “A mother seeing her daughter use her voice and speak her mind can be inspiring and motivating to mothers.”

And mothers and daughters enjoying “reciprocal socialization” affect those beyond that one relationship, especially other parents. 

As a son raised in a feminist household, I saw other moms inspired by my both my mother’s and my grandmother’s truth-telling. And even if these other moms were more scared than surprised – which happened – they still seemed more appreciative than afraid. It has remained my hope that my home carries on that tradition.



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