Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Aging Moms Prefers Daughters over Husbands?

Articles like these drive me crazy:
Aging Moms Prefer Daughter to Hubby Study Finds
Originally on an ABC news blog and ‘reblogged’ on Huffington Post, the article basically says that “research shows” that as women age they prefer their daughters as best friends and confidants more than their husbands.

Study finds,” “Research shows” are always red flags for me. I am immediately skeptical.  Not to mention that the whole slant of the article makes me shudder.  This is the kind of journalism-lite that I hate because too many people pay attention to the journalist’s perspective without looking at the data for themselves.  All is rosy and sweet – isn’t it cute how so many women turn to their daughters as best friends?  One line is devoted to the daughter’s perspective of feeling stalked by her parent. Now we're talking interesting - but one line is all she gets.

But that’s beside the point.  Okay, it’s part of the point but here is MY bigger pet peeve: the study itself.
The study:

Here’s an excerpt from the Discussion part of the study:
The assumption that mobile phone communication represents the most of important relationships of subscribers and that the strength of communication reflects the level of emotional closeness, these results allow us to draw four conclusions... (#2)as they age, women's attention shifts from their spouse to younger females, whom we assume, on the basis of the age difference, to be their daughters.
Each conclusion “assumes” truths based on unverified values. Why?  Because the researchers basically culled through a bunch of cell phone data records looking at gender and age and how often calls were made to a 'best friend.' Now, go back and read that first sentence again – what did they base that assumption about mobile phone use on? Hell, that’s a study in and of itself.  Moreover, they didn’t have the data that actually verifies any of the relationships between the cell phone users.  If an older woman is calling a younger woman a lot – it must be her daughter.  That’s flawed logic.

That, a scientific study, does not make.  Granted, the researchers are more interested in establishing some data on how different genders invest in relationships with other or same genders as time passes – they cross a line, however, when they start drawing conclusions as to who is who for a given subject based off of cell phone usage.

However, as reported out in the articles that followed on ABC and Huffington, the conclusions support a need in our culture for a large population of women to continue to be helicopter parents. (The conclusions also could be read to reveal a surprising level of loneliness that middle age women  feel and how hard it is to give up a role of all-knowing wisdom and authority.)  Now these women have a study to support their desire to continue to focus all their attention on adult children and not deal with the realities of an aging relationship that will take work and tending. Empty nest, anyone? The journalist with ABC does gently suggest through the words of a psychologist that this way of being in relationship with your adult child can become toxic or poisonous.  But that only makes sense if a person recognizes what healthy boundaries are in the first place.

People like to hear what supports their views on life.  We like to be validated in our way of thinking.  It is scary to me that there are so many women who buy into the veracity of the assumptions presented - that daughters can fulfill the need for closeness better than a partner.   

Read the data, ask questions and then decide in what world is it okay to call your daughter three to ten times a day and text her constantly when she is 27 years old? Leave the girl alone, stop living vicariously through her and go pick up the tattered remains of your marriage/partnership (if you have one) or go out and get your own life. I'm telling you, Intimacy is much better with an adult partner then your child.  I’ve known a lot of “Debby’s” and I’ve worked with their daughters.  As a therapist. 

Because they needed one.

I love my daughters and we text and talk on the phone a lot more than I do with my husband. This amounts to once or twice a week - more with the 16 year old because I am often tracking her down for location and ETA home. But the reason for my husband getting less air time is that I wait to share my day, thoughts, ideas and worries with him in person.  I don't need to call or text him because I'll be able to sit and make eye contact with him in the evening. That's my preferred method of communication - in person. With my kids - who knows when I'll see them next?  That often goes for the sixteen year old as much as the 23 and 25 year old. 

So the study is flawed for me from the get-go. Its assumptions are too flimsy to hold much water. It really bothers me how the media - especially Huffington Post - picked it up and gave it a stamp of approval. And if there is anyone out there that thinks its just fine to have your daughter be your best friend while your marriage fades into some bland, tasteless friendship -

Give me a call, I can set you up with a good therapist.

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