Expert Shares Impact of Toxic Behaviors of Mothers on University Students

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A study on university students found that toxic behaviors of mothers had a powerful effect on how their children viewed themselves and the world — even more powerful than the effect of having a toxic father.

Bad Mothers vs. Bad Fathers

Macquarie University Department of Psychology associate professor Wayne Warburton presented a study on the effect of toxic behaviors of mothers on their children. The study had 441 university student participants.

The study further determined that bad mothering had a worse impact on their children than bad fathering. Children spend more time with their mothers during the crucial years. David Anderson, a counselor, noted, "children feed off the energy of their mothers and become immersed in the same energy-destructive or not." Further, even in two-parent families, the number of toxic mothers has outnumbered toxic fathers, Jamaica Observer revealed.

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Adult Children Open Up about Toxic Behaviors of Mothers

Charlene's mother cursed her children for putting her in a nursing home. "But she was never there for us, never cared, love, or supported any of us," cried out Charlene, who thinks of her mother more like an incubator for all her seven children. "She loved parties and the adoration of men and would thrust her children on whoever would take them." However, when the children excelled despite their mom's toxic parenting, the mother wanted to lay claim on what her children had achieved.

Gia, now a nurse, opened up about the kind of mother she had — to the community, she was a kind-hearted woman, but her children know better. At home, the mother had a short temper and gave her children beatings. The children were so accustomed to the beatings that the older kids would hit their smaller siblings as it was seen as the standard of discipline. Gia explained that as a mother, she continues to struggle with insecurity and low self-esteem. She also has to practice great restraint not to resort to hitting her children.

"Our presence made her upset. We did not have to do anything for her to throw something at us and become verbally abusive," explained Michelle. But sometimes, toxic mothers take it on their kids when they have external problems. "My mother had problems with abusive men. When they beat her, she would beat us," shared Sherida.

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The Effects of Toxic Mothers on their Children

Toxic mothers come in many forms. Toxic behaviors of mothers include being passive-aggressive, having inner resentment, disrespecting personal boundaries, being constantly critical, a control freak, a manipulator, a guilt-tripper, and one who invalidates and disallows negative emotions.

The adult children who became victims of maternal abuse tend to inherit the toxic behaviors learned from past interactions with the toxic mother. Adult victims struggle to unlearn toxic behaviors. Better Help explained that an unaddressed mother wound can lead to feelings of shame, persistent guilt, not being good enough, feeling powerless to be loved, or always something wrong with you.

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Unfortunately, when left unaddressed, the effect of toxic parenting can escalate into eating disorders, addictions, depression, and self-sabotage. Further, victims of toxic parents are more prone to further abuse as they have a high tolerance for poor treatment from other people.

It is critical then for victims of toxic mothers to be mindful of their own toxic behaviors so as not to repeat the same patterns with other people. Hey Sigmund explained that the decisions to act in repetitive patterns are not conscious. As such, there needs to be more awareness rather than following through with automatic thoughts and feelings that drive those choices.

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