Ten Toxic Patterns in the Mother-Daughter Relationship

To heal the mother-daughter relationship, it's necessary to identify any toxic patterns of behavior. This is the first step to repairing the link.
Ten Toxic Patterns in the Mother-Daughter Relationship

Written by Helena Sutachan

Last update: 21 December, 2022

The bond you built with your mother has possibly been the most important in your life. However, relationships between mothers and daughters aren’t always positive and constructive. In fact, in many cases, certain traits may appear that reveal the existence of toxic patterns in the mother-daughter relationship.

The appearance of these types of behavior can affect your feelings of security and self-esteem as a daughter and leave dents in your self-concept. In this article we’re going to explore ten toxic patterns in mother-daughter relationships, seek to identify their main characteristics, and give you some tips to restore the bond or, at least, heal the wounds and forgive.

Of course, all interactions between mothers and daughters are different. Furthermore, the conflicts between them are generally normal. However, the presence of the following patterns in your relationship and the exaggerated prevalence of one or more of them could be a warning signal. They suggest that you might want to review the relationship that, as a daughter, you’ve built with your mother. Furthermore, to heal it, if necessary, for the benefit of both of you.

1. Contempt

This happens when your mother despises or detracts from everything you do. Having a mother like this makes you feel insignificant and constantly doubt your own abilities.

This, in turn, can generate in you the belief that nothing you do will ever be enough to satisfy her. In fact, it might lead you to embark on an unsuccessful search for love and recognition.

Angry Adult Mother and Daughter Symbolizing Competitive Mothers with Their Daughters

2. Narcissism

Deeply linked to the previous trait, having a mother with narcissism can also generate toxic patterns in your relationship.

This type of mother may see you as a projection of herself, as an extension of her own life. This can motivate her to undermine your identity and impede your inner development. Indeed, attempting to make you an ideal version of herself can cause profound damage to your self-esteem.

In addition, your relationship will be mother-centered. In other words, she’ll tend to ignore your emotions and seek to be the center of attention.

3. Competitive mothers

Another problematic feature is the presence of feelings of jealousy and envy in your mother. This generates competitive behaviors that can affect your self-confidence.

This kind of mother perceives you as a threat or as a rival she must defeat. Consequently, she may take actions such as sabotaging you in your relationships or your work and belittling you in public.

4. Invasive mothers

Having a mother who’s invasive and doesn’t respect your boundaries also often creates a toxic bond with you. Behaviors such as reading your personal journal and invading your privacy are examples of this trait. In these cases, trust and respect between the two of you are usually affected.

5. Being too controlling

Another toxic pattern appears when your mother is too controlling and has serious difficulties in recognizing your validity as an independent and free person.

With the excuse of caring for you and doing everything ‘for your own good’, this is the kind of mother who doesn’t allow you to make decisions or to assert yourself as an individual. This ends up being translated as a lack of confidence in you. In the long term, it can generate feelings of insecurity in you and cause a reduction in your self-confidence.

6. Ambivalence

A mother who generates an ambivalent and ambiguous tie with you can also cause negative effects on your relationship. This kind of mother tends to be passive-aggressive in her communication. In fact, on some days she may be loving and considerate, and on others she’s indifferent or cruel. This type of treatment generates uncertainty and emotional instability in you.

7. Emotional distance

Another form of toxic bond is when your mother doesn’t show her feelings or demonstrate any affection toward you. In other words, there’s no physical contact such as caresses or hugs and there aren’t even any affectionate words or explicit expressions of love.

This causes emotional disconnection that can trigger consequences in your adult life. For instance, you might experience an inability to connect emotionally with other people. Alternatively, you may develop excessive emotional dependence.

8. Dependent mothers

A negative bond can also be generated when your mother is excessively dependent on you. In this case, you’ll become her caregiver, even from a really early age.

This erodes the relationship between the two of you, as the roles are reversed and you become overloaded with caregiving tasks. It’s a phenomenon that often occurs in young mothers with many young children and an older daughter.

9. Emotional blackmail

Another form of dependency is emotional. This can also become a harmful feature of your relationship.

In this situation, your mother holds you fully responsible for her own happiness and sadness. There’s constant reproach and manipulation. In fact, she usually complains that she’s had to sacrifice her own youth and dreams for the sake of motherhood.

Mother ignoring her daughter to manipulate her

10. Authoritarian mothers

Finally, an overly authoritarian mother will also create a harmful relationship. For example, if she’s fixated on traditional gender roles and expects you to maintain the kind of submissive attitude historically attributed to women. Also, she might exhibit intransigent or violent behaviors if you dare to disobey her.

This type of bond means you grow up in a relationship of submission and tend to later rebel toward authority figures.

Restoring the mother-daughter relationship

Lastly, don’t forget that no mother is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. However, it’s important that you’re able to identify these types of toxic patterns so that you can repair any bonds. Furthermore, you’ll avoid the risk of repeating them yourself in any future relationship you may have with your own daughter.

If you find yourself a victim of one of these patterns of toxic behavior with your mother, you need to understand that you’re now an adult. This means that you’re able to set boundaries in your relationship. Indeed, this is a fundamental step in healing your relationship. In addition to this, it’s also necessary to overcome your feelings of child submission. This will help you reaffirm your autonomy in order to develop a more affectionate bond, based on mutual care and respect.

However, sometimes, professional help is necessary in order to successfully rebuild a toxic mother-daughter relationship.

It might interest you...
Mothers and Daughters: The Bond that Heals and Hurts
Exploring your mind
Read it in Exploring your mind
Mothers and Daughters: The Bond that Heals and Hurts

Almost all of us have the need to be seen by our mothers, we seek their approval.



  • Lötter, C. (2021) The waning of vision’s hegemony: A phenomenological perspective on mother-daughter discord in patriarchal societies, Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology, DOI: 10.1080/20797222.2021.1930694
  • Wang, H. (2021) “Thinking back through our mothers”: A curriculum of organic relationality, Curriculum Inquiry, 51:3, 332-349, DOI: 10.1080/03626784.2021.1941796

The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.