The clinical psychologist, Poulter, has put forward the notion that there are five main types of mothers, each type with her own parenting style, some of which may be more psychologically damaging to their offspring than others. The five types of mothers that Poulter identifies are as follows :
1) The unpredictable mother
2) The me-first mother
3) The perfectionist mother
4) The best friend mother
5) The complete mother
Let’s look at each of these five types of mothers in turn:
1) The unpredictable mother:
Unpredictable mothers suffer from mood instability and the way in which she interacts with her children will often mirror her moods. The children, because of this, are likely frequently to experience anxiety about how she will react to them; she may, for example, fly into an extreme rage directed against her children for the most trivial reasons, taking out her anger and frustrations on them when they do not deserve it.
Also, any discipline she tries to exert over her children will be inconsistent and haphazard. Overall, the living environment for children being brought up by such mothers will be chaotic.
The constant, unpredictable fluctuation in such a mother’s often highly intense emotions is likely to create for the children an unsettling and stressful environment in which to live.
2) The me-first mother:
Such mothers are self-absorbed and self-obsessed who wish constantly to be the center of attention and to be continually admired by others. She may take very little interest in her children’s lives, whilst expecting them to take a great interest in hers. If she bothers to plan activities involving her children, they are very likely to be activities that she enjoys rather than activities they enjoy.
3) The perfectionist mother :
This type of mother tends to be over-controlling, making impossible demands of her children and expecting them to reach unobtainable standards. As one would expect, therefore, she also tends to be hypercritical of her children.
4) The best friend mother :
Such a mother has a deep fear of taking on the responsibilities of being a parent and so will act as her offspring’s equal, thus avoiding an obligation to set boundaries and instill discipline which, as she perceives the situation, would put her under intolerable pressure.
Such mothers tend to use their children to satisfy their own emotional needs, at the expense of the children’s own emotional needs. This behavior may include, for example, sharing inappropriate confidences with the child, such as difficulties in her sex life – this is similar behavior to that of mothers who parentify their children.
5) The complete mother :
Such a mother provides a stable, loving, supportive, and nurturing environment for her child.
She is fully committed to motherhood and embraces the responsibilities it brings. She is emotionally balanced, makes her children feel safe and secure, is consistent and predictable in the way she interacts with her children, and allows them to develop as individuals under her loving guidance.
According to Poulter, only about one in ten of the population is fortunate enough to have a mother of this particular type.
Now let’s look at the typical effects each of the above types of mother are liable to have on their offspring :
1) Typical effects on children of the unpredictable mother:
Such children are likely to grow into adults who feel unsafe and insecure and have problems developing trust. They are also likely to be at elevated risk of developing anxiety disorders, depression, and other psychiatric conditions.
2) Typical effects on children of the me-first mother :
Children of this type of mother tend to grow up with unfulfilled needs and therefore become excessively dependent on others to fill their emotional void. They can also find decision-making difficult and be overly dependent upon meeting the approval of others.
3) Typical effects on children of the perfectionist mother :
Such children tend to grow into adults who have an oppressive sense of always being judged by others.
4) Typical effects on children of the best friend mother :
Children of best friend mothers can grow up with a heightened fear of rejection, unfulfilled emotional needs, and a sense of being underappreciated and unloved.
5) The effects on children of the complete mother:
Children fortunate to have such mothers have the best chance of developing into stable, emotionally secure, and generally successful adults.
Effective therapy for adult children of the first four types of mothers is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).