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Why are mothers toxic to their daughters?

The relationship between mothers and daughters can be complex. While the mother-daughter bond is often close and loving, tensions can arise as daughters grow into adolescence and adulthood. In some cases, the mother-daughter relationship can become strained or “toxic.” There are various reasons why this may occur:

Expectations and Control

Some mothers can have very high expectations for their daughters that are difficult to meet. They may pressure their daughters to achieve in academics, extracurricular activities, social status, relationships, and even appearance. This constant pressure and criticism from mom can make a daughter feel like she can never measure up. Mothers may also try to maintain too much control over their daughter’s life and not allow enough freedom as she gets older. This overbearing nature prevents the daughter from developing independence.

Competition and Jealousy

As daughters grow into womanhood, mothers may start to feel jealous and in competition. They may see their daughters’ youthfulness, beauty, and opportunities as a threat. A mom may make snide remarks about a daughter’s looks, interests, friends, or achievements. She may also try to live vicariously through a daughter instead of allowing her to have her own identity. This competition strains the bond.

Favoritism and Neglect

In some families, a mother favors one daughter over others. The neglected daughters perceive this favoritism and feel hurt and rejected by mom’s lack of love or attention. The favored daughter also feels pressure to constantly please mom. This dynamic damages the siblings’ relationships with each other and their mother.

Unresolved Trauma and Mental Health Issues

Many toxic mother-daughter relationships stem from the mother’s own unresolved trauma, mental health issues, or personality disorders. For example, a mom with untreated depression may become emotionally unavailable, critical, or resentful toward her daughter. Mothers with narcissistic tendencies may view their daughters as threats or extensions of themselves rather than separate individuals. These moms often emotionally abuse or manipulate daughters.

Common Behaviors and Effects on Daughters

Toxic mothers engage in certain damaging behaviors that can have profound effects on daughters:

Verbally abusive communication

Toxic moms belittle, insult, shame, invalidate emotions, or scream hurtful remarks at daughters. This creates self-doubt, low self-esteem, and lack of confidence in daughters.

Manipulation and emotional control

Toxic mothers use guilt, gaslighting, threats, and emotional blackmail to control daughters. This makes daughters distrust their own judgement and instincts.

Criticism and negative comparisons

Toxic moms constantly criticize daughters’ physical appearance, abilities, life choices. They also compare daughters negatively to others. This leads to body image issues and overly critical inner voice.

Overshare or triangulate

Some toxic moms overshare inappropriate emotional or sexual details to gain a daughter’s sympathy or loyalty. Others triangulate daughters into adult issues and family conflicts. This burdens daughters with emotional baggage they are not ready to handle.

Privacy invasion and enmeshment

Toxic moms invade a daughter’s privacy by reading journals/texts, eavesdropping etc. They are also emotionally enmeshed and discourage independence. Daughters feel unable to develop their own identity.

Undermine, sabotage and betrayal

Extremely toxic moms deliberately undermine daughters and sabotage key milestones out of jealousy. They betray trust through actions like sharing secrets. This causes severe trust issues in daughters.

Signs of a Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationship

Here are some signs that may indicate an unhealthy toxic bond between mother and daughter:

– Constant arguing, tension, and lack of genuine warmth
– Daughter feels unable to meet mom’s expectations or make her happy
– Daughter feels guilty, ashamed, or blamed for issues
– Daughter struggles with anxiety, depression, or lack of confidence
– Daughter has low self-esteem and overly critical inner voice
– Daughter suppresses own needs/wants to avoid conflict with mom
– Daughter feels pressure to take care of mom’s emotional needs
– Mom competes with or feels jealous of daughter
– Mom invades daughter’s privacy or discourages independence
– Daughter distrusts and resents mom; secretive and defiant
– Daughter has physical/psychosomatic symptoms when with mom

Table 1: Signs of a toxic mother-daughter relationship

For the Daughter For the Mother
Feels unable to meet mom’s expectations Highly critical and demanding of daughter
Struggles with anxiety, depression, lack of confidence Verbally abusive, manipulative, controlling
Has low self-esteem and overly critical inner voice Competes with or feels jealous of daughter
Suppresses own needs to avoid conflict with mom Invades daughter’s privacy and autonomy
Distrusts and resents mom; secretive & defiant Undermines, sabotages, or betrays daughter

Overcoming Toxic Mother-Daughter Patterns

Repairing a strained toxic mother-daughter relationship requires effort from both sides through open communication, boundary setting, and in some cases, professional help:

Honest discussions

Daughters should have candid talks with mothers about feelings, needs, and experiences in the relationship. This provides mom insight into the daughter’s perspective. Communication should remain calm, constructive, and focused on understanding each other.

Establish healthy boundaries

Daughters must learn to set firm boundaries around privacy, autonomy, and mom’s hurtful behaviors. Kind but firm limit setting helps rebuild trust and understanding. Moms also need to respect daughters’ boundaries.

Seek family or individual counseling

Therapy provides a mediating environment to facilitate difficult conversations and rebuild the bond with new relational skills. Individual counseling also helps daughters heal from emotional scars.

Limit time together if needed

In severe toxic situations, daughters may need to limit contact altogether for some time or permanently to protect well-being. This space allows growth.

Find emotional support systems

Support from others helps daughters feel understood and builds confidence. Mentors, friends, family, or support groups provide grounding outside the relationship.

Focus on self-care and personal growth

Daughters should engage in activities that reduce stress, build self-esteem, and bring happiness. Building a life separate from mom brings perspective.


Toxic relationships between mothers and daughters arise from a complex interplay of factors. While painful, daughters can reclaim self-esteem and overcome the effects through communication, boundary setting, therapeutic intervention, and focusing on inner resilience and support networks. With consistent effort, some toxic relationships can transform into healthy bonds. However, not all can be repaired. In those cases, daughters may need to create emotional distance for self-protection. With self-compassion, personal growth, and support, daughters can go on to build emotionally healthy, fulfilling lives even if difficult family patterns persist.