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'I'm a family therapist. Here are the 5 biggest causes behind mother/daughter conflict.'

Mother-daughter conflict is a story as old as time. 

Most of us have experienced it to varying degrees. But for some, the conflict isn't just an irritating disagreement - it can be incredibly taxing. Dr Aileen Alegado is a registered clinical psychologist who specialises in family therapy. 

She's been a psychologist for 15 years with a focus in family dynamics, attachment styles, and relationships.

"Being able to see the inner workings of humanity, both good and bad is the thing I love most about my role," she tells Mamamia. 

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A large part of Dr Alegado's work is addressing her client's experiences of familial conflict, often relating to mother/daughter relationships. 

She shares with Mamamia the most common causes of mother-daughter conflicts - and how to fix them. 

1. Unrealistic expectations.

When having a child it's natural to have an image of where they might go in life. But try not to get too swept up in it.

The experts say it's important to accept that image will likely not be the reality. 

A 2020 study showed that parental pressures are the most likely form of negative influence on teens' mental health. Expectations in academic performance, sports and extracurricular activities, cultural standards, appearance, friendships and romantic relationships are the areas where the most pressure is placed on teens by parents. 


"The child innately wants to gain the approval and love of a parent and the dilemma they face when what is being asked of them may be conflicting with their own ideas and beliefs about the world," says Dr Alegado.

A 2022 study also found commenting on children's weight results in a higher risk of your children developing eating disorders. 

2. Lack of trust.

Raising a kid is a scary thing, especially as they grow up and start becoming more independent. They might start going to parties, messaging potential love interests... all the things that will understandably freak you out. 

You might feel tempted to download a parental monitoring app. Or you might not let them go to the parties because you are scared of what they might do there.

However, as they are growing up, daughters need reassurance that you believe they're responsible and that you trust them, and a lack of trust can fracture the relationship. 

When your kids are worried about a mistake they made, they are more likely to come to you for your help and support if they feel they can trust you, notes Dr Alegado.

And she says that one of the most corrosive factors in mother/daughter estrangement, is often the breakdown in trust.

"Trust is the foundation of any relationship and in a relationship as crucial as that of a mother and daughter it is paramount. When there is trust in a relationship, both parties are potentially open to hearing the other person's point of view (i.e. empathise more) therefore coming to a better understanding quicker in a less defensive manner."


3. The tightening of the reins for too long. 

Kids will not always be kids. They will grow up, move out, potentially become parents themselves, and make decisions you won't always agree with...

Whatever the life stage, times of change are more likely to spark frustrations - and frustrations can build. 

"We tend to see conflicts are most common during periods of life transitions. So the big ones are adolescence, adulthood and of course parenthood. Often conflict arises when the child becomes an adult and tensions develop from differences in opinion, personality or beliefs," Dr Alegado tells Mamamia.

"Being self-aware of your needs versus your daughter's needs are the first step to understanding the origins of your differences. Good communication is key to eliciting empathy for both sides and reducing conflict."

4. Outside influences.

Whether it be your daughter's friends, partners or extended family, external influences can play a big role in provoking conflict.

"Outside influence counts as a factor in either helping resolve the conflict or inflame it. We often see new partners, boyfriends or friends taking on the bond that has been there originally between the daughter and the mother when conflict in that relationship arises and this can be even more damaging if there are big differences in opinion," says Dr Alegado.

5. The struggle between being a parent versus a friend. 

Obviously, everyone wants to be well-liked by their child, but sometimes trying to become besties with your daughter can lead to an unhealthy power dynamic, Dr Alegado feels.


Sometimes our children, even if they're now adults, need some good 'ol guidance. So when a parent is too far down the mate route versus the guardian route, it can prove more challenging than expected. 

"Being 'friends' with your children can neglect them of appropriate learning, growth or self-discipline (around boundaries and limits) that may be important for their adult life later on. Though being friends with a parent when you're an adult is slightly different as there is less of this power-dynamic and responsibility in an adult-adult relationship," says Dr Alegado. "It's more about finding the right balance."

Ultimately, mother-daughter conflict, and even more generally, parent-child conflict is difficult. 

If you're someone who can relate to this, you're certainly not alone. Of course, not every mother/daughter relationship is worth salvaging. But for those who wish to mend the gap, Dr Alegado says it is achievable. 

"Conflict is something we can't completely avoid although we can reduce the impact it has. It comes down to communicating more and reacting less. Acceptance from both sides can make for a happier and healthier relationship."

For more from Dr Aileen Alegado you can follow her on Instagram here, and visit her website here.

Feature Image: Getty.

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