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London - A recent study has suggested that as women age, they shift their focus of intimacy from their husbands to adult daughters.
While women in their late twenties see their new husband as first, front and centre, when women reach their forties they shift their attention away from their spouse and on to their daughter.
Conversely, the study, published in the Journal of Scientific Reports, found that husbands continue to retain their wives as their closest confidantes.
Over a seven-month period, researchers from Britain’s Oxford University and Boston’s Northeastern University did an analysis of two billion cellphone calls and half a billion SMSes from a European cellphone carrier, studying the most frequently called contacts and labelling them best friend and second best friend.
The researchers found that on average a 50-year-old female subscriber had a young female (possibly a daughter) as the “best friend”, with the “second best friend” being a male of her own age group (possibly her husband).
What they also found is that a woman’s “third best friend” was typically also of younger generation, but male (possibly a son).
The study said that in early adulthood, men and women focus most on their romantic partner. But when women reach their forties, this focus shifts on to an adult daughter, with the relationship strengthening over time, peaking at about 60.
Men, however – at least in their cellphone communication – stick with a female best friend of the same generation – presumably their wives, according to the study. They appear to call their sons and daughters equally.
Researchers suggest this shift in communication may be biologically driven, as women in their childbearing years move closer to motherhood, reflecting the gradual arrival of grandchildren.
While close families are seen as an ideal to many, psychoanalyst Fran Walfish told ABC that when the lives of mothers and daughters become too intertwined, however, it can signal trouble in the husband-wife relationship.
She explained: “I wonder if the women looked at in this study turned to their daughter because the relationships and communication with their husbands had decreased and fallen off track as they aged.”
However, 49-year-old mother Charlette disagrees,saying that her constant calling and texting of her 24-year-old daughter, Anouk, has nothing to do with her love for her husband.
The mother said: “I like her opinion on things. We talk about work, health, her love life, problems she’s having with friends.
“I like to just check to see if she’s okay, get updates and, you know, gossip,” she said.
While Walfish agrees that biology may drive ageing mothers closer to their daughters, especially as they become grandparents, she believes it should be self-monitored.
She said: “(A close relationship) is a positive and wonderful thing. But if reasonable boundaries aren’t created, it can be poison or toxic.”
Daughters, and children in general, may also heavily rely on this shift in intimacy from their mothers as they grow into adulthood.
Using their mothers as sounding boards for life choices is a common theme among young adults.
Anouk said of her relationship with her mother, “she knows me better than anyone else. I rely on her for life experience.
“I know she will tell me what is the right thing to do, rather than tell me what I want to hear.”
She also said her parents had a “strong foundation” of marriage. – Daily Mail