Friday, May 11, 2012
Unlike any other family relationship, the bond between mothers and sons is often criticized. There is a view that a close mother can damage her son, making him weak and dependent. Almost one hundred years ago, the developer of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud warned that sons who are raised by a doting mother are doomed to be “sexually confused”. In the 50’s and 60’s much revered pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock warned that mama’s boys might grow up “precocious, with feminine interests.” Within some cultures, this is accepted belief.
However, a recent book by Kate Stone Lombardi, The Mama’s Boy Myth - Why Keeping Our Sons Close Makes Them Stronger, argues that having a close mother-son relationship makes boys stronger and ultimately helps them be better men and spouses. Lombardi believes that mothers and sons face a stigmatization that other parent-child relationships don’t. It is acceptable when mothers and daughters are close, father-son relationships are viewed as very important, and father-daughter relationships are valued, “but mothers and sons – that relationship is always looks at with a little skepticism and a little fear”. Lombardi states: “The myth is that any boy close to his mom will be a sissy, a wimp, forever dependent and never a man who can have a relationship – and it is everywhere we look, in the movies, on TV.”
Lombardi’s book argues that for this generation of mothers and sons, the stereotypes are simply not true. While it is important to appreciate the positive impacts of boys having close relationships with their mothers; this does not imply that fathers are unimportant or without valuable contributions. Lombardi states, “Parenting is not a zero-sum game. You don’t have to be close to one parent and not the other. They both bring something.”
Lombardi is not alone in rejecting the references to the dangers of a close mother-son relationship. There are numerous psychological research projects that confirm boys who have a warm and supportive relationship with their mothers have better tools for communication and lower rates of depression and delinquency. One 2010 study conducted by Carlos Santos, Ph.D., a professor at Arizona State University, found that boys with closer relationships with their mothers “had a broader definition of masculinity and didn’t buy into the idea that men had to be stoic and not fight back at every moment. Being close to mom was good for their mental health.”
Research also shows that “mamma’s boys” are less vulnerable to peer pressure to do drugs and alcohol, and they tend to delay their first sexual experience and have less unprotected sex. A close maternal connection strengthens and confirms a son’s identity and helps him grow toward independence. Sons who are close to their moms have higher emotional intelligence, understand how to care for others, and how to relate and communicate with future wives. Mothers teach sons how to recognize and talk about feelings. The consensus of research confirms that to raise a son who is both strong and sensitive, it is important for moms to stay close to sons throughout their lives.
A strong mother-son relationship starts with consistency, patience, and emotional closeness, which are important for all babies; boys and girls. It is important to reject the cultural or family messages that pressure moms to distance from their sons as they move into adolescence and young adult life. The deep emotional connection between mothers and sons has been demonized for too long.
“There is an enduring tenderness in the love of a mother to a son that transcends all other affections of the heart.”