Mothers and their adult daughters: A study of Eriksonian developmental stages and mutuality

Frances Leili, Fordham University


The present study focused on expanding an understanding of the potential for bidirectional impact upon psychological development in the mother/daughter dyad. Recent feminist object relations theorists have pointed up the mutual inter-relatedness of mothers and their daughters setting the stage for both partners in this dyad to influence and impact the growth and development of the other. Erikson's epigenetic theory of development was used as the life-span developmental model in this study, with emphasis on the last four stages of Identity, Intimacy, Generativity and Ego Integrity. Resolutions to Erikson's developmental crises were measured by the Measure of Psychosocial Development (MPD). Mothers completed the MPD twice--once reflecting current self beliefs and once retrospectively to age 30--in order to assess perception of change. Capacity for mutuality was measured by the Mutual Psychological Development Questionnaire. As all development is embedded within a context, the mother/daughter pairs chosen for this study represent two cohorts which may have been differentially impacted by the recent feminist movement--the mothers' group with a mean age of 55 years, and the daughters' group with a mean age of 30 years. Results indicated the MPD resolution scores for all eight crises for both mothers and daughters were more negative, less positive than was reported for a normative sample of women of their ages. The mothers' group perceived that they had significantly changed since age 30 in the direction of more positive identity but greater isolation. Mothers and daughters scores on the MPD were only significantly positively correlated for identity and isolation. Mothers and daughters scores on the mutuality questionnaire were significantly correlated and scores for this measure were also significantly correlated to MPD positive resolution to the crises of identity, intimacy and generativity. An interesting question raised by the results concern the trend for intimacy scores to move towards a more negative resolution as Identity and Autonomy scores move towards a more positive resolution.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Leili, Frances, "Mothers and their adult daughters: A study of Eriksonian developmental stages and mutuality" (1993). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9324621.