Remember when psychologists used to blame frigid "refrigerator mothers" for raising autistic children? That hypothesis fell out of favor, but mom-blaming in general is still totally in fashion. Latest example: an Australian study reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, showing that mean moms are more likely to mess up their kids than mean dads. Dr. Wayne Warburton discovered that his subjects "were two-thirds as likely to develop unhelpful patterns of thinking if the toxic parenting they had experienced came from their father rather than their mother" — but his methodology raises tons of questions.Warburton polled 441 university students about their parents' bad behavior, such as ""making a child feel ashamed," being unloving or rejecting, and frequently telling the child they were stupid or would fail." Then he "asked questions designed to uncover destructive thinking patterns in the students, such as being "clingy" out of a fear of being abandoned." He identified twenty-two percent of mothers as "toxic" (a possible reason for the Britney Spears pic that accompanies the story in the Herald), along with fourteen percent of fathers. One possible explanation for the results, admits Warburton, is that "kids spend more time with their mothers, especially in the crucial early years." But what if people also remember their mothers less fondly than their fathers for other reasons? Because they have higher expectations for female parents to be warm and nurturing? Or perhaps because they've been conditioned to think — a la the "refrigerator mother" theory — that their moms are to blame for their problems? Having subjects self-report on the "toxicity" of their mothers seems especially fraught with error. So, frankly, do the questions designed to uncover "unhelpful patterns of thinking." Who's to decide what's "unhelpful"? The whole study seems like specious mommy-bashing to us, but what do you think? In the long, complicated process of fucking you up, do moms do more than their fair share? The Sins Of The Mothers [Sydney Morning Herald]
OK, wait, back the study-truck UP. They based this on students at university?
Can I just inject a little "um, no" into the conversation? I am not trying to be all ageist here, but there is a period in your late teens/early twenties where you've broken away from the parental-defined household, and are eager to set your own mores and, well, identity, and that usually involves a pretty intense period of parental scrutiny. It's also a time where we try out a lot of black and white, yes or no, you're with me or against me behavior.
Then, there's a mellowing, and sort of an easing into an acceptance of gray areas.
I'm guessing most of the 30-something and up Jezzies will back me up on this. University/college is when we're busy breaking away from our parents - it's what we're supposed to DO during that time (without the messy rebellion of the earlier teen years) - so it seems like a faulty time to try to judge one's parents.