What Are Mommy Issues?

In general, mommy issues are the psychological challenges you deal with as an adult that result from your childhood relationship with your mother or another adult female figure in your life. If you’re experiencing mommy issues in one way or another, your relationship with your mother was likely lacking.

Most people agree that the mother-child relationship is one of the most important dynamics in life. It’s logical that if you had an unhealthy relationship with your mother, especially during your childhood, it could easily have an impact on your adult relationships.

It could be that your mother was too controlling or that she was loving but failed to provide essential emotional support. Maybe she manipulated you in a harsh way or she abused or neglected you. Mommy issues can result from many different maternal behaviors, and you might be surprised to learn that some of them are seemingly innocent or even appear to be well-meaning on the surface. Not all mommy issues are the result of abuse or neglectful behavior.

Mommy issues can result from both overly permissive and overprotective mothers. Some mothers are more focused on being their child’s best friend rather than providing solid, structured maternal leadership. While a proud, doting mother certainly seems admirable, sometimes these are the exact types of relationships that can become toxic and cause long-term detriment.

The psychology behind mommy issues

To fully understand mommy issues, it’s important to look at some of the behaviors and relationships in childhood that might contribute to — or flat-out cause — a young person to develop mommy issues in their future.

“Relationships are the place for unmet expectations to surface and mommy issues are no less intrusive until they are projected towards a partner. We can’t be omniscient about where our vulnerabilities will land, but it’s a good idea to practice self awareness rather than displacing unfulfilled expectations onto a partner.”

Talkspace therapist Elizabeth Keohan, LCSW-C, LICSW, LCSW.

What causes mommy issues?

Long-lasting psychological effects can come from any substandard parent-child relationship. Children may develop either mommy issues, daddy issues, or a combination of both. 

Every household, child, mother, and father — every aspect of a family dynamic — is completely unique. Thus, it can feel impossible to gauge the precise effects of any given situation or relationship. That said, there are some accepted standards and beliefs regarding what might cause mommy issues. 

These might include a mother who:

  • Was physically, emotionally, or sexually abusive
  • Was completely or mostly absent
  • Treated a father poorly
  • Was extremely overbearing
  • Was unloving or non-nurturing

Remember that these are just some of the potential causes of mommy issues. All mother and child relationships are complex, and with so many aspects to the relationship, it can be difficult to ever fully understand the true cause for someone’s mommy issues.


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