Love Her or Hate Her -- She's Still Your Mom

It can be the best of relationships and the worst of relationships -- often at the same time. The bond between a mother and daughter is one of the strongest, but it's also among the most complicated.

Best-selling author and relationship guru Deborah Tannen spent five years listening to conversations between mothers and daughters to sort through some of the friction and confusion for her latest book, "You're Wearing That?"

"Mothers and daughters talk more, talk about more personal topics. That means they may be closer, but they also risk offending each other much more," Tannen told "20/20's" JuJu Chang.

You're Wearing That?

Even Tannen, who's had a terrifically successful career, has been offended by her mother. After she appeared on "Oprah," Tannen said her mom made a comment that stung. Tannen recalled her mom's jab: "You're wearing that same suit? You wore that suit on the other show."

That critical comment gave Tannen a great title for her new book on mothers and daughters: "You're Wearing That?"

A woman's appearance is a minefield, Tannen said, calling it the No. 1 flash point in the relationship. Weight, hair and clothes are the "big three" points of criticism -- and sensitivity -- when it comes to appearance, Tannen said.

Why is it that a mother feels free to comment on a daughter's appearance?

Tannen said it had to do with how women were often judged on their appearance. "I think women are judged by how they look, and mothers are judged by how their daughters look," she said.

We asked Tannen to watch some video of mothers and daughters who allowed "20/20" to tape some of their interactions, and to point out the communication that works and doesn't work.

First up were Ande, 25, and her mom, Annetta, who live in Atlanta and are planning Ande's wedding together.

Ande and Annetta work together. And like many mothers, Annetta, still sees her daughter as a little girl.

Ande and Annetta's interactions illustrate flash point No. 2 in mother-daughter relationships: control.

It's an issue that Gabrielle, a 46-year-old professional, said she could relate to. Gabrielle's mother, Mary -- a Holocaust survivor -- is a loving but strong-willed woman. But Gabrielle says she can still make her feel like a 12-year-old.

After years of painful personal struggles -- and lots of therapy -- Gabrielle said she finally understood her mother. The two are now very close, but when Gabrielle was Ande's age, her mother's controlling nature made her rebel.

Gabrielle went through a thrill-seeking phase -- partying, sky diving, and bungee jumping. Gabrielle said her mom didn't like it and tried to make her feel guilty with comments like "I was sick because you went bungee jumping."

Tannen said this type of conflict was common. "The daughter sees it as simply 'She wants to control me, I've got to get free.'" Tannen said daughters needed to understand where those comments came from. "If you can just realize that part of the reason she's acting that way is because she does genuinely feel that she has failed as a mother if something doesn't go well for you," she said.

Critical Care -- Dealing With Motherly Advice

And that brought us to flash point No. 3: good old-fashioned motherly advice.

"Anytime you offer advice or a suggestion for improvement, there's an implied criticism," Tannen said.

"20/20" cameras caught Annetta criticizing Ande's driving.

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