Mother as a role model

This little girl is going viral on the internet. Of course is because she`s cute, funny and sweet in explaining why she has gone into her mother`s makeup. Generally speaking, little girls do this because of reasons they are not conscious of. I will further try to explain the entire social and psychological phenomena of this action.

Little girl’s identification with the mother takes place in an early age and plays an initiative role in the formation of their femininity.

Sigmund Freud, known as the father of psychoanalysis, notices that the little girl`s game with dolls is an action of “identification with her mother with the intention of substituting activity for passivity”. The girl`s identification with her mother also leads to her learning of taking care of children, therefore it is conceivable that her mother, as her role model of woman and her identification with her mother is critical to the formation of femininity. The identification is compatible with women`s social status and its influence on psychical development. Having this in mind, it is much clearer why little girls get into their mom`s makeup and as the girl from the video says: “want to be pretty like you” (her mother).

Another psychoanalyst, Jean Laplanche, best known for his work on psychosexual development argues for the primary role of others, especially others within an intimate socii (plural of socius) with us, in our gender formation; rather than the little girl picks up her mother to identify herself with, it is her parents and close relatives who assign to her her gender, and identify her with her mother.

We can relate this to George Herbert Mead, (philosopher, sociologist, and psychologist) and his definition for the “significant other”. Significant others are those persons who are of sufficient importance in an individual’s life (family members and close friends or mentors) to affect the individual’s emotions, behaviour, and sense of self. Through interactions with significant others, and perceptions of their responses to one’s behaviour, an individual gains a sense of who he or she is, and comes to understand how to act in a given context and role. Self-concept is based largely on our perceptions – whether accurate or not – of whom we are in the eyes of those whose opinions matter to us.

Harry Stack Sullivan (psychiatrist and psychoanalyst) and G.H. Mead) suggest that socialization relies upon a person’s considering the other’s view of himself or herself as important. Having positive feelings toward another will greatly increase the chances that this person will become significant, and thus serve as a reference for belief and behaviour. Mead was among the first to recognize the role of important others in the development and maintenance of identity.

To conclude, we go back to Freud and assert that not even femininity, but understanding of group identities, such as sexual, gender, racial, and cultural identity, may all be inspired by Freud`s dynamic perspective of ego formation and consideration of family as the primary source.


Written by Ana-Maria Gulin






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