The Importance of Mother's Day from a Psychological Perspective

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Celebrating Mother's Day is not just a fun way to show appreciation for the one who loves you unconditionally; it has important psychological benefits as well. Learn about the psychological impact of our bond with Mom and the importance of the Mother's Day celebration that honors her.

The Psychological Importance of Mother's Day

Whether it's your mom, grandma, a favorite aunt, teacher, or friend, the women in our lives shape and define us in ways both large and small. Explore the ways your mom and the other women in your life helped make you who you are, then pick out something nice for the ones who mean the most to you and enjoy your Mother's Day celebration.

Caring from the Start

Even as we developed within our mother's womb, she was looking out for us, providing us with the safe environment and nourishment we need to thrive. But mom gives us more than a good start in life. Scientists now know that our mother's emotional state helps to determine our base personalities as well. Mothers who experience a calm, restful pregnancy tend to have calmer babies. Those exposed to elevated levels of stress hormones during their pregnancies have babies who are more anxious. So, it is from the beginning that our mothers play a key role in helping to determine who we will become in life.

As We Grow and Connect

Our ability to connect with the world around us begins with our connection to mom. In the 1950s, psychologists studied the impact of the mother and child connection, examining how it affected the child's ability to form lasting bonds throughout their lives. Children who were loved, nurtured, encouraged, and spent their formative years in a safe and secure environment grew up to be healthy, well-adjusted, confident adults.

BabyFeet

Conversely, infants that spent their formative years in a high-stress environment, unsure that their needs would be met, grew up to be anxious adults who had difficulty in developing meaningful bonds. Throughout our early years, we look to mom to teach us how to connect with the world at large. And while that initial connection to our biological mother is an important part of this process, it extends beyond birth and includes foster and adoptive parents as well. Children with a close attachment to their caregivers, of whom mom is typically the primary, develop the tools they need to become well-adjusted adults.

Nature and Nurture Together

But it isn't just our connection to mom that determines who we are. Behavioral Genetics, the theory that we inherit certain traits and behaviors from our ancestors, may also play a role. In this theory, behaviorists posit that if your grandmother was anxious, your mother will be, and you're likely to be as well. While some might argue that being raised by an anxious mother would naturally turn out an anxious child, studies show otherwise. In a study of identical twins conducted by Hans Jurgen Eysenck in the 1950s, he found that even when identical twins were separated they retained many of the same emotional characteristics regardless of early environment.

Whether this is the product of exposure to elevated levels of anxiety related hormones in utero or innate personality traits is still a hotly debated topic, but there can be little doubt that the people who make us help to determine our path in life whether by nature or nurture.

It Takes All Kinds of Moms

Regardless of whether who we are is a product of genetics or the environment in which we are raised, there can be no doubt that maternal figures play a key role in helping us to become the person we are. They comfort us, encourage us, care for us, and provide for us in more ways than most of us can possibly name. In doing so they help to teach us what it means to be a strong, caring force of love and support for those around us.

MotherAndDaughter

Our mother figures teach us so much. They provide us with language lessons that allow us to communicate, train us to be diplomatic and fair, and help us to look beyond ourselves to the world around us. It is our mother figures who give us the strength and the courage to embrace our future and leave our own mark on the universe. The maternal figures in our lives, those who traditionally provide care and nurturing as we grow, help to give us confidence as we define ourselves for the world. And, if we are fortunate, it is the mother figure who teaches us how to do the same for others.

Celebrate the One Who Loves You

While all this is interesting, what does it have to do with the psychology of Mother's Day? Plenty. Mothers have been called the glue that holds the family together, although the glue is often underappreciated. Celebrating Mother's Day by acknowledging the woman who gets it all done not only provides a lift to her spirits, it helps to unify the family unit by pulling us together in a way that Sunday evening dinner does not. The celebration of Mother's Day allows us to reflect on who we want to be as a family and how we're all connected to one another—a gift mom is sure to appreciate no matter how it's packaged.

By Patricia Willis
December 2017
current events culture

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