Mothers and daughters: a powerful spell



An unanticipated finding of a small exploratory study of the health of never-married women in old age is discussed Focused conversational interviews yielded evidence of the potent effect the mother-daughter relationship had in a group of women who had lived for all their adult lives in the parental home Usually mothers had outlived fathers, and when they finally died daughters lost someone to whom they had been very close and at the same time had to cope with living alone for the first time in their lives Three case histories, illustrating both strong positive and negative aspects of mother-daughter relationships are reported, and the psychological and sociological literature is explored Parallels are also drawn with biographical and autobiographical literature about this type of relationship, including that of Florence Nightingale and her mother Finally, some implications for nurses are considered and the special support needs of these women at bereavement and in old age are highlighted