Home > Teens > Puberty and Sex > Changes During Puberty > Daughters: From Childhood Through Adolescence

Daughters: From Childhood Through Adolescence

Woman to Woman

Approximately 95 percent of those who suffer bulimia or anorexia are females. Only 5 to 10 percent are males. A study by the American Association of University Women reported some disturbing findings that clearly show how self-image diminishes as girls grow. Sixty percent of elementary school girls in the study said they felt happy with themselves. This number fell to half of that, 30 percent, by high school. Sadly enough, 10 percent of American women are reported to starve, binge, or purge themselves. This number doubles to 20 percent during adolescence. And as if that weren't troubling enough, nearly 15 percent of anorexic women die.

Growing up means becoming one's own person. With that come differing opinions, rebellion, and loss of complete parental control. The humorous thing is that when daughters begin to exhibit this perfectly natural behavior, many of us cringe! Life was simpler when they didn't question our authority.

Preadolescence, a Preview of What's to Come

Somewhere between 10 and 11 years old, Sally develops the ability to see things from different points of view—hers included. More and more she will begin evaluating Mom's opinions and how they stack up with her own. This ability to begin to see things from different points and return to the original is called "reversibility thinking."

It may be comforting to keep in mind that much of that original opinion may be made up of the values and ideals little Sally has been raised to believe in before this new era of independent analysis.

Adolescence, Agony, and Ambivalence

The onset of puberty, adolescence, and moral independence is a particularly precarious time for daughters and an era of trauma for their mothers. Once this phase sprouts into full bloom an outgoing, productive Sally can turn into a frustrating, sulky, self-centered young teenager.

Matrophobia, or the fear of becoming like one's mother, is particularly prevalent in adolescence. In fact, it is so common in Western culture that many experts consider it normative behavior.

Building Blocks

Matrophobia is the fear of becoming like one's mother or emulating her basic characteristics. If the fear is particularly potent, a woman may estrange herself from her mother in order to establish her own identity.

The Adolescent Self

All of the sudden sociological (magazine and media ads) and biological (hormonal) forces are demanding that Sally focus on a physical presence that is attractive to the opposite sex. According to Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., author of A Woman's Book of Life, these forces are so powerful that a happy, well-adjusted young girl may become confused and ambivalent over who she was and who she is supposed to be. The pushes and pulls to strengthen "the power to be or the power to please" can, Borysenko claims, exacerbate the onset of depression.

The whole idea of "self versus others" makes the young woman in transition feel conflicted by family pressures, the influence of friends, and pride in her own independence. If she feels guilty for the pride and satisfaction she feels in her own independence, there is a risk she might forego her own attitudes, desires, and opinions in favor of the posture of peacekeeper. Borysenko warns that the role of peacekeeper is performed by connecting with others but excluding oneself. She says that society reinforces this because we grow up with the belief that a good woman is not selfish.

Women who grow up and deny their own identities to win favor of others miss out on the cornerstone of intimacy and mature love, a hearty dose of self-respect.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Mothers and Daughters © 2001 by Rosanne Rosen. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


8 Epic Emoji-Themed Crafts, Activities & Recipes
Check out the best emoji crafts, activities, and recipes! They're perfect for an emoji-themed birthday party or anytime you need DIY (and screen-free!) summer activities for kids, tweens, and teens.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme!

10 Free Summer Learning Worksheets
Print these free printables for preschoolers and kindergarteners to help your child's mind stay sharp until September!

Ready for Kindergarten?
Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks