Mother/Daughter Conflict + Bad Brain Chemistry = Self-Mutilation

Illustration for article titled Mother/Daughter Conflict + Bad Brain Chemistry = Self-Mutilation

Did you hate your mom as a teenager? Who didn't! But a negative relationship between mothers and daughters taken in tandem with low serotonin levels could lead to cutting and other self-harm, a new study shows. Fraught mother/daughter dealings alone generally do not inspire cutting, says study co-author, University of Washington psych professor Theodore Beauchaine. It's the combo of low serotonin ("an important chemical for brain stability," says Science Daily) and poor mother/daughter relations that's really the one-two punch. "Most people think in terms of biology or environment rather than biology and environment working together," says Beauchaine. "Having a low level of serotonin is a biological vulnerability for self-harming behavior and that vulnerability increases remarkably when it is paired with maternal conflict."


How bad does a relationship have to be to get branded as "negative"? The researchers at the University of Washington chose a topic that both parent and child said was a "serious issue." The most common area of conflict was chores. Mother and child then discussed the sticky subject for 10 minutes, while assistants recorded and coded the conversation. According to Beauchaine, "You would think that they would be civil to each other in this kind of situation, but many of these topics were hot and within five minutes some of our subjects were arguing with each other."

"Once self-harming behavior starts it is difficult to stop," Beauchaine added, "So you want to prevent this behavior before it starts." But is every parent of a troubled girl supposed to get her serotonin levels checked just in case the young woman might start up with a razor? That doesn't sound practical. Lots of mothers and daughters have arduous relationships: how can you know when it's veering into truly dangerous territory?

Mother-Daughter Conflict, Low Serotonin Level May Be Deadly Combination [Science Daily]



@PinkSoxHat: Thank you for creating the template letter which I will send to my mother. Seriously, I had the BEST relationship with my mom in high school. She was first and foremost a PARENT: she didn't go to the mall with me, wear my clothes, or buy me and my friends beer. But we sat down and had a cup of tea together every afternoon after school and always talked and had fun. I don't think I've been in 7 fights with my mother in 25 years of life.

@eve804: Do not wish a Gilmore Girls relationship on ANY mother daughter pair! My mom and I were constantly compared to them and it's like NO GOD NO!

@frumious: I have an eyebrow/eyelash picking friend. It's called tricotillomania and it's practically rhe same as cutting, but manifested differently.