Cat's Eye explains many of the characters by way of their mothers: we learn that Carol's mother, for instance, wears twin sets and cares a great deal for appearances. Grace's mother views twin sets "with contempt", wears no makeup, and works hard despite her bad heart. While Cordelia's mother is the epitome of femininity with her gardening and freedom from manual labor, Elaine's mother dresses like a man and picks weeds rather than flowers.
Each of the mothers exercises a certain degree of influence upon her daughter. As Elaine mentions, "Married women don't have jobs. We know this from our own mothers." The mothers provide models of what it means to be a woman. Elaine, for instance, knows that her mother is an outsider like her: "My mother is not like the other mothers. She doesn't fit in with the idea of them." In a sense, Elaine wonders how she could ever fit in if her mother's ways were so eccentric. Mothers are the ones who instill values in the girls and allow them to understand what is and isn't socially acceptable.
The girls who bully Elaine have tense relationships with their own parents: Cordelia is afraid of her father, while Grace's father spanks her with a belt. The notion of punishment is one that these girls will then exert on poor Elaine.