Science Explains Why The Mother-Daughter Bond Is SO Powerful

by Julie Scagell
Originally Published: 
Image via Getty Images/JJD

The study found specific transmission patterns between moms and daughters

If you have a daughter, you know the mother-daughter bond is one of the strongest connections two people can share. According to science, there’s a reason for that — and it comes down to how our brains process emotion.

According to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the part of the brain that regulates emotion is more similar between mothers and daughters than any other intergenerational pairing (mother-son, father-daughter, father-son). The current study suggests that the “corticolimbic circuitry, which has been implicated in mood regulation, shows a matrilineal-specific transmission patterns.” And those of us who have daughters know that can be both a blessing, and a curse.

Of course there are a number of environmental factors that can impact how a bond develops between mother and child, but it seems according to science, those transmission patterns play a major role in how mothers and daughters process emotions and react to each other’s as well. This explains why I’m constantly saying, “Ugh, she just knows how to get under my skin.” It also could be that she’s 15 years old and that’s sort of her job at that age.

What’s more, the study also found this corticolimbic circuitry could go a long way in understanding the genetics around mental health conditions. Lead author Fumiko Hoeft, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, explained that, among other things, the corticolimbic system is strongly tied to depression. Although additional research is warranted, “these matrilineal associations may be tightly linked to greater vulnerability for daughters but not sons in developing depression when their mothers have depression,” the study said.

That means the mental health of a mother could be a strong indicator for daughters down the road. While there can be a lot of guilt associated with this from a mom’s perspective, it could also be used to help identify the symptoms more quickly and possibly seek treatment years earlier than one typically would, which could have a tremendous positive impact on those who suffer.

This study was the first of its kind to use intergenerational MRIs to study brain patterns, and Hoeft hopes future research will explore the possible link to other mental health conditions. In a press release, she said, “Anxiety, autism, addition, schizophrenia, dyslexia, you name it—brain patterns inherited from both mothers and fathers have an impact on just about all of them.”

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