How Satisfied are Mothers of College Students?

The relationship between a mother and her child is a complicated, challenging, rewarding, and enduring one. When children are young, they are wholly dependent on their mothers for virtually every need. As they mature, they develop their own personalities and rely on their parents for guidance, security, support, and love. But when children enter adulthood and venture off on their own, a natural shift in the mother-child relationship occurs. Mothers who based their level of maternal satisfaction on caring and providing for their child’s every need may now view their child’s independence, academic success, and happiness as indicators of satisfaction. Because more and more children are entering college every year, it is important to understand how this prolonged parenting relationship effects maternal satisfaction.

Esther S. Chang of the Department of Social Behavioral Sciences at Soka University of America in California recently led a study looking at how maternal satisfaction varied among 72 Chinese American mothers and 68 European American mothers. She considered factors such as academic success, maternal warmth, and maternal perception of relationship to measure maternal satisfaction. Chang found that the European American mothers reported higher levels of positive relationships and maternal satisfaction than the Chinese American mothers. The Chinese American mothers reported less satisfaction with their child’s college performance, less relationship warmth, and more conflict.

The parent-child relationship is a constant throughout life. It grows and evolves as each member of the coupling grows and evolves. Because it is integral to emotional development and overall well-being for both parties, it is important that all aspects of this relationship be explored at every significant point in time. Chang said, “These results led us to conclude that mutual warmth with young adult children is a key feature of midlife parenting satisfaction for mothers of both ethnic groups.” Chang hopes that this study provides insight into a critical time in the lives of mothers and children and demonstrates what factors are most important to ensuring a strong mother-child bond.

Chang, Esther S., and Ellen Greenberger. Parenting satisfaction at midlife among European- and Chinese-American mothers with a college-enrolled child. Asian American Journal of Psychology 3.4 (2012): 263-74. Print.

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  • Natalie


    February 1st, 2013 at 10:42 PM

    It is important for parents and in particular mothers to be aware of and adapt and understand the changes that come with children growing up. My parents often ignored the fact that my siblings and I were growing up and we needed to be treated differently. The relationship with parents matures tool each side has to understand and embrace this change rather than hold on to the past thereby causing confusion and sometimes even conflict with the other side.

  • brady l

    brady l

    February 2nd, 2013 at 4:45 AM

    I think that my mom is just happy that I made it through high school and that we found a college that was willing to take a chance on me, bad grades and all!

  • celine


    February 2nd, 2013 at 7:16 AM

    This is very much a cultural thing.

    If you were difficult to please when the child was at home, no matter the level of their academic performance then there is no reason why you are going to be happy just because they are going off to college.

    Most of them are going to take this critical eye with them throughout their kids’ lives until they realize that it is not necessarily beringing them closer together but instead driving them apart.

  • Lulu


    February 3rd, 2013 at 6:17 AM

    As a mom who has sent two kids off to college I have learned that a lot of this has to do with how you are with yourself and your other relationships in life outside of the relationship with the kids. I had a life outside of being a mom so I have only been able to grow this since they have left home. It is the families who have nothing other than the child to focus that energy on who feel the most lost when the kids fly the coop.

  • vince


    February 3rd, 2013 at 11:47 PM

    sometimes the child may be closer to the father than even the mother. it was like that for me. dad always was the go-to person if I needed anything, including emotional support. dont know why but I’ve always been closer to him. wouldnt the dynamics change for a mother in such a case?

    I do understand that the level of happiness would be the same but emotionally there would be a difference. the parent you were closest to would react differently when your off from home.

  • Lionel


    February 4th, 2013 at 8:45 AM

    This article reminds me of the recent debate-what was it Tiger mom or something? Anyway, this lady was saying how she cracks the whip with her kids and makes them practice the violin for 8 hours a day or something and tells them every little thing they do wrong. If she was representative of her culture, there’s not a whole lot of warmth going on there.

  • Noal


    February 4th, 2013 at 8:48 AM

    This is a rather timely article. I have a 9th grader and, well, most days I just can’t wait until that child is out of my house and into college. Please don’t mistake this sentence to mean that I don’t love my child. I love her tremendously and feel that I am very supportive. But, some days, as anyone with a 14 year old girl knows, I just don’t enjoy sharing my space with her all that much. To know that I had raised her to be someone with grades good enough to get into college would bring me immense joy and pride. I am counting down the days, but at the same time, I am afraid once she does really leave, I’ll miss her terribly.

  • petra


    February 4th, 2013 at 8:50 AM

    Noal i felt the same when when my kids were at home and now look at me? my last one left the nest this fall and i was a complete mess i was always finding myself listening for them upstairs. they drove me nuts when they were here but i’d give anything to have them under one roof again for a little while anyways. so just hug your girl tight and know that these days are numbered. your gonna miss this!

  • Rayna


    February 4th, 2013 at 8:52 AM

    My child’s success is my success. I got this one in the bag!

  • Dean


    February 4th, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    When our on left home I kind of felt like I lost my wife a little bit because her whole life had revolved around him and getting him where he needed to be, and it kind of took us some time to make those adjustments and reconnections after he left. But now? I am not sure that we have ever been this happy in our entire marriage. We had our son very early into our marriage so never had a whole lot of time just for us. Now we have that and even though we have had our little hiccups, it has been fun getting to know each other and ourselves all over again.

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