Academic journal article Family Relations

Adult Daughters' Perceptions of the Mother-Daughter Relationship: A Cross-Cultural Comparison

Academic journal article Family Relations

Adult Daughters' Perceptions of the Mother-Daughter Relationship: A Cross-Cultural Comparison

Article excerpt

Adult Daughters? Perceptions of the Mother-Daughter

Relationship: A Cross-Cultural Comparison*

This study compares the perception of adult daughter-s' relationship with their mothers across the European American, Asian Indian American, and Mexican American cultures, using intergenerational, feminist object relations and attachment theories. Three dimensions were used to measure the relationships: closeness, reliability, and collectivism. Each dimension was measured using two instruments: the AAS and the MAD. The latter was developed to be sensitive to cultural differences and includes a new variable called trust in hierarchy. This variable represents positive beliefs about, and an acceptance of hierarchy in intergenerational relationships. The participants were 91 women from the three ethnic groups. Cross-cultural differences in the adult daughtermother relationship were found, with the Asian Indian American group scoring higher than the European American group on many variables. Scores for the Mexican American group tended to fall between those of the other two groups.

Key Words: attachment, cross-cultural, gender intergenerational, mother-daughter

The mother-daughter relationship is highly significant in many cultures. The purpose of this study was to examine the mother-adult daughter relationship across the European American, Mexican American, and Asian Indian American cultures. This study is significant because: (a) no cross-cultural research on mother-daughter relationships exists in the literature and, (b) certain variables used in the study (connectedness, interdependence, and trust in hierarchy) have not been measured in previous studies on family relationships. The three ethnic groups were compared on three key dimensions derived from intergenerational family therapy, feminist object relations, and attachment theories. These dimensions of relationships (closeness, reliability, and collectivism) were each measured in two different ways using both an existing and a new measure. These six variables included connectedness and closeness (under the closeness dimension), interdependence and dependency (under the dimension of reliability), and differentiation and trust in hierarchy (under the dimension of collectivism.).

Family professionals utilize theories, techniques and other empirically derived generalizations in their work. However, rarely do we know if the relationships between variables that hold true for a certain group of people in the United States (e.g., European American women) are universally generalizable. Without testing them across various cultural groups (e.g., Mexican American and Asian Indian American women), the explanatory power of theories and other generalizations is severely restricted and runs the risk of being ethnocentric. In utilizing the norms developed in one context to measure the behavior in another culture we may draw erroneous conclusions if the two cultures are dissimilar (Straus, 1969). Thus, comparative research helps shape our theories and tests the generalizability of knowledge derived from hypotheses tested in one context to other dissimilar contexts (Lee & Haas, 1993).

Methodological Challenges

This preliminary cross-cultural investigation into motherdaughter relationships came with its own methodological challenges having to do with validity. These concerns are divided into: (a) instrumentation, and (b) sampling.

Instrumentation. To ensure conceptual equivalence (Straus, 1969) of the constructs across the three cultures certain precautions were used. First, a new, culturally sensitive measure called the Mother-Adult Daughter (MAD) questionnaire was developed. This allowed the researchers to measure the three key dimensions using culturally relevant items. These items were developed using theory, cross-cultural literature, and feedback from a pilot study and increased content validity of the measure. The first two dimensions, closeness and reliability, (also see Collins & Read, 1990) were first measured using the MAD. …

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