Moms' perspectives on daughters' lives

Many mid-life mothers think their daughters have been more successful at work than they themselves were, but don't necessarily believe that their daughters are happier than they are, according to a new University of Michigan study.

Interviewed for the survey were a sampling of Wisconsin high school graduates from the class of 1957, interviewed at ages 18, 36, and 53, and, in some cases, at 59. About 64 percent of the women, asked to think back to when they were their daughters' ages, said they themselves did "worse" or "much worse" in terms of work.

The daughters, ranging in age from 22 to 40, averaged 14 years of education, compared with 13 for the mothers. And many daughters now work in higher-status occupations. "Few of the mothers attributed their daughter's success to the women's movement or other social changes," said Deborah Carr, the sociologist who conducted the research. Instead, they were more likely to cite their daughters' intelligence or ambition.

Many mothers, however, described their daughters' success as mixed, noting the increased stress and cost to personal lives. "At her age, I was married, I had a house, I had a husband," said Janice, a bank teller whose daughter is a junior high school teacher. "She's single, no boyfriend, she lives in an apartment by herself."

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.