Why Is the Bond Between Mother and Daughter So Strong?

The mother-daughter bond has a biological substrate, but this is not the only aspect that influences it. Find out more in this article.
Why Is the Bond Between Mother and Daughter So Strong?

Last update: 02 August, 2022

According to a study published in The Journal of Neuroscience in 2016, there’s evidence that links the development of certain brain structures with the bond between mother and daughter. Likewise, it’s impressive to know that this phenomenon is transmitted from generation to generation, through the maternal line.

Could it be that nature created this emotional union special between women of the same blood? Find out more!

The bond between mother and daughter

A girl nuzzling her mother's cheek with her nose.

The objective of the study in question was to determine the influence of women in the development of certain structural patterns in the brain of their children. In particular, if there was any physical evidence of the transmission of psychiatric illness among women, as previous trials suggested.

However, it’s important to highlight some points about the interpretation of these studies:

  • We can’t generalize the results in all cases, as they reflect observations in certain populations and circumstances.
  • Although a father or mother may pass on to their child a certain predisposition to suffer from one disease or another, this doesn’t imply that the disease will manifest itself in the end. In addition to genetic factors, the characteristics of the environment play a significant role.

This study analyzed a group of 35 healthy families and evaluated the volume of gray matter present (GMV) in the cortico-limbic circuit of the brain, which has a strong association with the regulation of emotions.

Within it are two important structures: The amygdala and the hippocampus. Both have to do with emotional responses, and a dysfunction in either of them can lead to certain mood disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or fear.

Upon comparing the results, a greater similarity was observed in the GMV of the limbic circuit in the mother and daughter pair with respect to the other pairs (mother and son, father and son, father and daughter). This could explain the intergenerational effects on the regulation of the offspring’s emotions.

Let’s not jump to conclusions!

Now, let’s clear up some doubts about what these results imply :

  1. Is the bond between mother and daughter stronger than the other inter-family ties? No, because there are many factors that influence human relationships, besides how brain structures are shaped.
  2. Does this mean that mothers who have a mood disorder necessarily pass it on to their daughters? No, because, as we’ve said, environmental factors also influence the development of illnesses.

Therefore, epigenetics came to teach us that biological influences go hand in hand with environmental influences.

The key to thinking about links is knowing how to focus on their uniqueness, since there are no universal rules and no recipes can be generalized.

Relationships are built over time and you need to share many moments to get to know and understand yourself. The bond between a mother and daughter is no exception and its strength requires the involvement of both parties.

The importance of attachment

The relationship between parents and children has a very important basis in attachment.

The concept of attachment is part of a theory that John Bowlby proposed, who postulated that human beings have the tendency to establish affective relationships with people, in search of proximity, security, and affection.

So, the attachment relationship that arises in the first years of life influences the development of self-esteem, security, and the motivation to explore in our children.

Attachment allows children to feel love and protection and requires parents to be sensitive and available to their needs. Also, it requires them to spend time with them and interact with them.

Parents walking with their young children in a field on a sunny day.

Biology isn’t destiny

So, based on the results of the aforementioned study, it’s important to rescue some central ideas. This is especially true because everything that concerns genetic influences often leads to guilt in parents.

While biology may play an important role in the presence or absence of certain characteristics of our children, it doesn’t determine everything on its own.

The environment in which a person and their family operates also has an influence on brain development. And this is especially true at an early age in life. Hence the fact that a supportive network serves as a protective and resilience factor for those cases in which there’s a certain predisposition to suffer from mood disorders.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Garrido-Rojas, Lusmenia (2006). Apego, emoción y regulación emocional. Implicaciones para lasalud. Revista Latinoamericana de Psicología, 38(3),493-507.[fecha de Consulta 8 de Septiembre de 2021]. ISSN: 0120-0534. Disponible en: https://www.redalyc.org/articulo.oa?id=80538304
  • Yamagata B, Murayama K, Black JM, Hancock R, Mimura M, Yang TT, Reiss AL, Hoeft F. Female-Specific Intergenerational Transmission Patterns of the Human Corticolimbic Circuitry. J Neurosci. 2016 Jan 27;36(4):1254-60. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4974-14.2016. PMID: 26818513; PMCID: PMC4728726.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.