June 2007 Archives

modern neuroses or just shortsightedness?

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Mommy Is Truly Dearest - New York Times

i'm not entirely sure why this is news, but the Times reported last week that young middle-class women are increasingly close to and connected with their moms -- and that this constitues a trend worthy of social scientific study. i suspect that as communications technologies come to permeate our daily lives, our social and personal relationships will be transformed as a result -- but conversely, social organization can also affect the technologies we cultivate and develop.

but there's a certain shortsightedness in suggesting that it's a new development for daughters to stay emotionally close to their mothers. on the contrary, i think the unprecedented mobility of the middle classes in the past half century has separated adult children from their families to a degree that may be unusual compared to most other cultures and time periods. although traditional marriage practices have often taken young women away from their parents, closely knit extended families are historically more the norm than the highly mobile nuclear families of the postindustrial United States. perhaps the ubiquity of cellphones is reconnecting young women to their mothers, and permitting the kinds of close relationshops that are beneficial for many people, rather than somehow prolonging childhood in an unhealthy way.

to report this as newsworthy suggests more about American conceptions of maturity and adulthood, in which independence and individualism are valued over close family relationships. i think these underlying assumptions represent a much more interesting topic of study than the fact that daughters like to spend time on the phone with their mothers.

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