Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Steven Tuber

Committee Members

Diana Puñales

Norma Cofresí

Ben Harris

Eric Fertuck

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Family, Life Course, and Society | Multicultural Psychology | Personality and Social Contexts


Object Relations, Latinas, Mother-Adult Daughters, Mutuality of Autonomy


Background: Latinas are culturally expected to be “dutiful daughters” establishing strong attachments and adhering to the traditional values characterized by loyalty, cooperation, respect and interdependence within family members. Conventional Latina mother-daughter bonds, therefore, are expected to be exceptionally close. Healthy mother-daughter closeness can be a valuable source of support while closeness without differentiation from the mother may result in a lack of independence and poor interpersonal and personal growth. Mutuality of autonomy, a dimension of object relations (OR) theory, focuses on the progression of separation – individuation from developmentally normative fused representations in infancy to highly differentiated self-other representations as the individual matures. Latinas have rarely been investigated using an object relations approach and the current study is the first to investigate the interactions of family dutifulness, mother-daughter bonds, and quality of OR in a Latina sample. Methods: In addition to administering two self-report measures looking at mother-daughter relations and Latina values respectively, this research applied the adapted Mutuality of Autonomy Scale (MOA-TAT) to examine verbal narratives on the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) in a sample of thirty college-aged Latinas. Mother-daughter closeness was determined using the Mother-Adult Daughter Questionnaire (MAD) and the degree of dutifulness was established using the Latina Values Scale (LVS). Included in the LVS was a conflict scale, which measured the respondents’ conflict with the traditional values they endorsed. Pearson correlation analyses were used to examine the relationships between the study variables. Results: Participants with MOA scores reflecting more adaptive object relations also exhibited a greater degree of connection with their mothers as well as lower degree of conflict with the traditional values they endorsed. Furthermore, a disproportionally high number of MOA Level 3 scores indicated a response style favoring a dependent relationship in which the maintenance of self is highly related to sustenance from another person. Conclusions: The continuum of mother-daughter connectedness vis a vis quality of object relations in the Latina "dutiful daughter" was illustrated. The degree of connectedness, more than any other factor in the mother-daughter dyad, relates to stable and adaptive self-other representations. Traditional values favoring interdependency over autonomy are culturally mediated and should not be pathologized.