Bad news for teenage girls: While you're desperately trying to avoid looking like your mother, she's busy mimicking your fashion sense.
According to new research to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Consumer Behavior, teen daughters are much more likely to influence their moms' sense of style than the other way around. In fact, while teen daughters resist dressing like their mothers, moms tend to feel younger than their age and express that feeling by buying the same clothes and products as their daughters.
"Mimicking her daughter is like a shortcut to what is hip and cool," said study researcher Ayalla Ruvio, a professor of marketing at Temple University in Pennsylvania.
Marketing researchers have long known that kids influence their parents' purchasing decisions. Kids have a lot of input into items that get purchased for the whole family, such as cereal or soup. What's unusual about the new study is that it finds that daughters influence the purchase of items that mothers plan to use for themselves alone.
Ruvio and her colleagues surveyed 343 mothers, average age of about 44, and their daughters, who were about 16 years old on average. They asked the mothers and daughters about their interest in fashion and how old they felt (as opposed to how old they really were). Moms were asked how much their daughters influenced their clothes and make-up purchases, and daughters were asked the same question about their mothers. [10 Facts Every Parent Should Know About Their Teen's Brain]
The answers revealed that when mothers see their daughters as stylish, they're likely to mimic their child's look, especially if the moms think of themselves as young at heart. Daughters, on the other hand, were not keen on imitating their mothers, even when the teens perceived themselves as older than their years and saw their moms as stylish.
Not becoming mom
Ruvio said she was surprised at how eager mothers were to look like their daughters.
"They really tend to copy the way they dress up, the things they wear," she told LiveScience. "We did some interviews in a study published elsewhere, and [moms] told us they borrow items from their teenage girls. The teenage girls didn't really like that."
Teen girls do like when their moms look stylish and get compliments, Ruvio said. But when they're looking for older fashion role models to emulate, they tend to choose celebrities.
"The one thing the girls do not like is to look like their mothers," Ruvio said. "They're trying very, very hard to establish a separate, distinct image of who they are, and then the mother goes out and mimics them."
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Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.