Parenting Adolescents — 27 January 2013
Are mothers helpful or harmful to sons?

Though supportive, loving and attentive parental treatment of both boys and girls has been documented to be the source of healthy maturation, some still view a close attachment between a mother and her son with skepticism. Is there merit to the concern that an overly dotting mother may hinder her son’s masculine and autonomous development?

The loving presence of a mother is the baby’s first and most formative introduction to human connection.

In 1952, psychoanalyst Melanie Klein described her observations of the early relationship between the mother and her baby. “Young infants – even as early as the second month – would in wakeful periods after feeding lie on the mother’s lap, look at her, listen to her voice and respond to it by their facial expression; it was like a loving conversation between mother and baby.”

Mothers’ positive connection with their sons has a significant impact in providing guidance for boys’ appropriate conduct in life. Recent research by Dr. Pasco Fearon states, “Our analysis showed that children with insecure attachments to their mothers, particularly boys, had significantly more behavioral problems, even when the behavioral problems were measured years later.”

Kate Lombardi, the author of “The Mama’s Boy Myth: Why Keeping Our Sons Close Makes Them Stronger” pinpointed the emotional and social benefits of maternal guidance to boys. In an interview on National Public Radio she stated, “A healthy, loving relationship is one where the mom is emotionally supportive of her son. She recognizes his individuality, his sensitivity and his vulnerability along with his strengths.”

Lombardi added, “One of the things that moms tend to do with their boys is they teach them emotional intelligence and they teach them to recognize their feelings and talk about them.”

Mothers also help boys learn how to become good partners. Lombard explains, “Men who are brought up close to their moms go on to have an easier time in their adult relationships, because one of the things that moms tend to do with their boys is they teach them emotional intelligence. They teach them to recognize their feelings and talk about them starting from really young ages.” Good mothers also model what healthy women are like.

Both early attachment theory researchers and modern day scientists assert the behavioral, emotional, social and relational advantages of mother-son connections. Though it is plausible that an excessively restrictive mother may harm her son, many studies emphasize that a healthy, close relationship between a mother and a maturing son is beneficial, enriching and most valuable to the young male.


  • Disregard the myth that a close mother-son connection is hazardous to your son.
  • Continue loving your son and teach him how to act, emote and connect with others.
  • Encourage your son to become autonomous, independent and self-sufficient as well as loving and emotionally expressive.
  • Know that your positive connection with your son is a great gift to him that charts the course for his healthy life.




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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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