Too much love leads to excessive mothering, or over, protectiveness, and is as bad psychologically as too little. As early as the turn of the century, Freud asserted that too much “parental tenderness” accelerates the child’s sexual maturity, awakens a “disposition” for neurotic diseases, spoils the child, and makes him unable to be satisfied with smaller amounts of love in later life. This point of view was echoed by John. Watson, who in the warned that too much mother love was damaging to the child’s personality development.
Later studies demonstrated that babies and young children showered with to much parental young affection developed personality patterns that ill-fitted them to face life alone. During World War II, the long- term effects of excessive mothering became the focus of scientific concern when it was found that more young men were being rejected by the armed services for psychological than for physical reasons. Strecker brought to public attention the damage caused by “momism” and “smother love” when he reported that overprotective mothers turn their sons and daughters into immature, dependent adults.
Further research has justified Strecker’s claims about the psychological damage of too much affection, especially during the early, formative years. The person who is smothered with affection by over demonstrative and over solicitous parents is likely to turn inward because he lacks motivation to express affection for others. Such a person focuses his attention on others, becoming spoiled, selfish, and self-centered. In time, he may rebel against such treatment and begin to rebutff demonstrations of affection, not only from his mother but from anyone else who tries to show affection for him. This leads to a generalized rebellion against authority and a negativistic attitude toward others.
The overmotherd child who does not rebel is likely to become submissive, gullible, conservative, and lacking in aggressiveness, self-confidence, and leadership qualities. He depends on others for attention, affection, approval, and encouragement in everything he undertakes, and he is lonely and unhappy when away from those who supply the affection he craves.
The emotionally dependent person rarely achieves up to capacity. In school, the parent dependent child looks to his teachers for special attention, approval, and affection. If he does not receive it, he does poor work and thus becomes even more dependent on his parents for affection. He also tends to become intellectually rigid and to have difficulty adjusting to new situations and people.
Parents who smother their child with love generally have unrealistically high levels of aspiration for him, and so he develops strong feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and resentment when he falls below their expectations. He may wind up biting his nails, stuttering, blinking his eyes, etc. he generally lacks emotional control, has a low level of frustration tolerance, and is afraid to act his age because of lack of self-confidence.
The firstborn child is more likely to be the victim of excessive mothering than the later-born. And a boy is more likely to be overmothered than a girl. The firstborn child experiences a high-pitched emotional relationship with his mother at first. Normally the intensity of the relationship steadily diminishes as the family grows and as the child him-self begins to assert his natural desire for independence. Excessive mothering is more common in the upper socioeconomic groups and among mothers who have experienced marital adjustment problems or who were deprived of affection in their own childhood.