Saturday, June 23, 2012

Maternal over protection

Another way the Adult ego state can remain underdeveloped is due to what has historically been called maternal over protection. In Transactional Analysis terms the mother (or father) does not allow the child develop out of the symbiosis it formed at a very young age with mother. A new born has no Parent or Adult ego states and thus it has to form a symbiosis with mother and ‘use’ hers until it develops its own.

In some cases the mother or father will not permit the youngster to develop their own Parent and Adult ego states. Psychologists have indentified four main ways maternal over protection can occur.

Life can be dangerous sometimes. How many risks does one take or let children take?

1. Restriction of the child’s social world. The child is encouraged not to develop friends and out of family contacts. The child may be kept from going to school because he often gets ‘sick’. Indeed when a child develops a school phobia (and refuses to go to school) often that is due to emotional maneuvering by the mother in the back ground who does not want the child to go.
2. Excessive contact. This can be continuous companionship of mother and child, prolonged nursing care, excessive fondling, prolonged breast feeding, sleeping with mother long past infancy. Highlighting of a special connection or relationship between child and parent. This can even be mildly romanticized and thus one has the development of the oedipus complex and the electra complex.
3. Infantilization. The parent treats the child in the same manner it would a much younger child. This can be in feeding, dressing, bathing, washing, punishing. The mother may dress a 13 year old son or punish him by putting him to bed in the afternoon.
4. Maternal control. This can manifest as either over domination or overindulgence of the child by mother.

Child smoker

All of these pressure the child to stay childlike and not develop a competent Adult ego state. If a child cannot think for itself then it has to continue to rely on mother to think for it. Thus we have another reason why as an adult a person may find it difficult to stay in their Adult ego state and require Adult ego state strengthening exercises.



  1. So, did you have some thoughts on this article when it came came to air?

  2. I have not seen that story Linda,
    How old was the boy?


  3. He was almost five. She also has an adopted boy who she fed quite late. The photo did cause a stir and that was the intention. I did feel for the boy who was about to start school - not the ideal way to be recognised.

  4. I think you make a good point Linda,
    It could lead to some bullying at school