The Psychology of the Mother-Son Relationship

The psychology of the mother-son relationship has been studied and discussed since around 440 B.C. when Sophocles wrote about Oedipus Rex, a man who killed his father and slept with his mother. Perhaps no modern psychoanalyst displayed as much interest in that scenario as Sigmund Freud, who developed the theory of the Oedipal Complex where boys between the ages of 3 and 5 would desire their mothers and subconsciously would want their fathers out of the picture so they could take that role. Most people have discounted Freud’s theory as having no merit, but plenty of other factors go into the mother-son relationship.

Mother-Son Bonding

Research reported in 2010 by the University of Reading reveals that all children, particularly boys, who don’t have a strong bond with their mothers have more behavioral problems. Kate Stone Lombardi, author of “The Mama’s Boy Myth: Why Keeping Our Sons Close Makes Them Stronger,” said in that boys who don’t have a strong bond with their mothers from their earliest days grow up to be hostile, aggressive and destructive. Boys who have a close bond with their moms tend to avoid future delinquent behavior.

Attachment Theory

Attachment theory states that children who have a strong attachment to their parents feel supported and comforted by their parents. But children who are rejected or who receive care and comfort inconsistently tend to develop behavioral problems. Analysis by Dr. Pasco Fearon of the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Science at the University of Reading confirmed that attachment theory has validity after looking at 69 studies that involved about 6,000 children.

Too Much Mothering

Many people believe that too much mothering produces soft, sissy boys. Jerry Seinfeld once said on the TV show “Seinfeld”: “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” Although what he really meant was that, yes, many people do believe there is something wrong with that. Peggy Drexler, research psychologist and author of “Raising Boys Without Men,” pointed out in a “Psychology Today” article that society says it’s OK for a girl to be a “Daddy’s girl,” but it’s not OK for a boy to be a “Momma’s boy.” The idea of a loving mother raising a soft boy, however, is just a myth. Drexler says that mothers should be a “safe harbor” for their boys but that they should also “demand independence.” She stressed that, above all, a mother’s love can never hurt.

Good Communicator and Mate

Moms who are close with their sons tend to raise boys who are better able to communicate their feelings and who can stand up to peer pressure, according to Lombardi. As the son reaches manhood, if he enjoyed a loving, respectful relationship with his mother, he is more likely to treat his future significant other the same way, says Lombardi 3. This foundation can lead to a successful love relationship.

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