Monday, February 22, 2010

Psychology of Mama's Boys

This article described an increase in the "mama's boy" phenomenon in Turkey, although it didn't go so far as to cite any real data to back up the claim.
What I did like about the article was that it examined what I'll loosely call the Oedipus complex from a cultural perspective. In Turkey, women are substantially less empowered than men and have far less social mobility. As a result, male children tend to be coddled by their mothers, who effectively exercise social power vicariously through their sons upon their reaching adulthood.
What entails coddling, exactly? In Turkish culture it is acceptable for sons to be granted virtually anything they want (read as: spoiled rotten); it is also common for Turkish mothers to grant their male children little in the way of privacy, and for sons to sleep with their mothers until they reach adolescence.
The article does a pretty decent job of analyzing what leads to the “mama’s boy” phenomenon: first, in childhood, sons gain the understanding that they have greater potential for social mobility than do women, and recognize that their mothers are among these less powerful numbers. Then, as the sons grow older, they form ambivalent relationships with their mothers, who via coddling effectively deny the sons the ability to individualize, or to form an identity separate from their mothers. The ambivalence is derived from:
~the guilt of having more social mobility than their mothers and feeling as though they are needed to act in social situations on their mothers’ behalf;
~and the resentment directed at their mothers for denying them the opportunity to individuate.
Needless to say, the article explains, this leads to catastrophic intimacy problems when the sons enter adulthood. The sons are ingrained with the idea of an emotionally intimate relationship and a sexually intimate one as inhabiting completely separate spheres, since their relationships with their mothers have largely dominated their perspectives on interpersonal relationships as a whole.

1 comment:

Julie Kim said...

This article is great because it takes a psychological condition but applies it within a culture - Turkish culture - that effects the outcome. In Turkey, the phenomenon called "Mama's Boy" is and has been very well clinically documented. A mama's boy will call his mother too many times, visit too many times, prefer his mother's cooking over his spouses and will in time cause problems within his marriage.
Some might think "What's the big deal? So he has a great relationship with his mother." But it can cause relationship problems and sexual issues in several ways. In one instance, mama's boys don't wish to cause ambivalence with what they feel towards their mother so therefore avoids other woman. Another negative outcome is the struggle to form deep, intimate relationship with other woman because the mama's boy has gone through the process of de-sexualizing the mother and "resulting in learning to disconnect tenderness and closeness from the sexual sphere," says Harika Yucel. "With time, it becomes difficult to integrate affectionate love and the sexual sphere; therefore, such man would try to find a 'mother' in his partner and seek sexual satisfaction outside the relationship." This article has shown me that this is a serious problem.
In America, boys that truly are not mama's boys are teased about it left and right so I think that we have become desensitized towards the issue on a clinical level. But in Turkey, it is a major issue because in their culture, the male sex is viewed as more powerful than the female sex and in result is treated so. The only form of power a female mother has is control over her son (who's phallus is a sign of power). Having control and the devotion of her son, is a substituting form of power for the female figure. For some mothers, having their son individualize and separate demotes their self confidence and causes mothers to cling on harder. So many sons are complimented endlessly (building their egos), given anything they want, kept close to their mothers and the roots of the mama's boys phenomenon is implanted. This can all be avoided by a father figure balancing out the mother's tendency to keep the child to herself which will then lead to a process of individuation, where a child is allowed to develop their own individual identity. But in a culture such as the one in Turkey, where there is a social hierarchy, I honestly can say that I can see where the female mothers are coming from. Being completely deprived of a say in my life and not having much power over my life, its hard to say what I would do in such a situation. No, I would not want to have my son be a mama's boy, but would I let go of my one opportunity to have some form of power?