Scott Allison, University of Richmond – Mothers as Heroes

Need to find a hero?  Looks to moms.

Scott Allison, professor of psychology at the University of Richmond, explores the four reasons for this.

Scott Allison has authored numerous books, including Heroes and Heroic Leadership. He is Professor of Psychology at the University of Richmond where he has published extensively on heroism and leadership. His other books include Reel Heroes, Conceptions of Leadership, Frontiers in Spiritual Leadership, and the Handbook of Heroism. His work has appeared in USA Today, National Public Radio, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Slate Magazine, MSNBC, CBS, Psychology Today, and the Christian Science Monitor. He has received Richmond’s Distinguished Educator Award and the Virginia Council of Higher Education’s Outstanding Faculty Award.

Mothers as Heroes


Moms are indeed the mother of all heroes.

According to surveys I’ve conducted, over 25% of Americans cite their mother as their number one hero.

More than 60 years ago, psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed his famous hierarchy of human needs.

Mothers are masters at helping their children meet this full range of human needs and fulfill the four important functions of a hero: heroes provide defense and protection; they embody intelligence and wisdom; they model moral behavior; and they promote inspiration.

First, mothers defend and protect. Amazing stories abound of mothers lifting enormous weights or even sacrificing their own lives. It is commonplace to see headlines about mothers saving and protecting their children.

Second, mothers provide intelligence and wisdom. Scientists are beginning to uncover evidence suggesting that intelligence is inherited more from mothers than from fathers. Beyond this, mothers are committed to passing on wisdom to their children. Many of Americans’ most cherished heroes credit their mothers for teaching them fundamental truths about life.

Third, mothers are moral models. Children watch their mothers’ selflessness and daily sacrifices, and learn to perform these acts of kindness for others. Heroes are beacons of hope who demonstrate how to behave virtuously. Sounds like a lot of moms.

Fourth, mothers enhance and inspire. Of all the people to pick from as heroes – presidents, humanitarians, legends, coaches and family members – our survey respondents listed mothers as their number one hero.

Mothers, we learned, meet people’s needs and mold us into our best selves.

  1. Debra Berke

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