Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Son/Daughter Double Standard in Parenting

I do not usually post articles without data / scienc-y stuff, but well, this F&F article is pretty interesting:

[M]others and fathers both parent boys differently than they do girls. In short, girls tend to get more of their parent’s affection, attention and protection while boys tend to be taught to not need same and to “man up.” [...]

It is indeed a double standard and the idea that even boys who are young enough to just be starting school find themselves holding the short end of the maternal affection stick should give anyone pause. And if it’s true for boys of five or six, who’s to say it’s not true for even younger ones. Come to think of it, I reported not long ago on a study out of the University of Chicago that found that sons of single mothers receive less in the way of “parental investment” than their sisters do.

But what Dell’ Antonia is writing about isn’t just single mothers, but married ones as well. There seems to be a generalized concern that boys won’t grow up to be strong, autonomous men. Needless to say, the fear that they’ll be gay is part and parcel of that.

And it comes as no surprise that popular culture is there on the sidelines cheering every dysfunctional concept of masculinity.[...]

But the main point of Dell’ Antonio’s article [the original NYT article this is all about] is the hesitancy many mothers have about showing “too much” affection to their sons. They don’t have the same problems with their daughters because our culture tells us that love and tenderness toward girls and women is OK, but the same toward boys and men can be suspect.

Obviously the problem is less one of sexual politics than it is of how best to raise children. Whatever your take on gender equality, little boys need and deserve as much love as little girls do and it’s wrong of parents not to give it to them.

If parents hesitate to do that because they fear little Andy won’t grow up to be a manly man, they need to take a closer look at what being a man is all about. Here’s a hint: they won’t find it at the movies. The usual cast of tough-guy heroes and anti-heroes that Hollywood spews out are almost exclusively bad examples of masculinity. The simple fact is that 99.9% of men bear no resemblance to them and that’s usually a good thing.

If parents need to educate themselves about what it means to be a man, they need to broaden their scope considerably. They need to look around and remember that Jesus and the Buddha were men as well as Mozart, Darwin and Einstein. So were Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Plato and Confucius. The point being that men have always come in an astonishing array of types from the King to the Warrior to the Priest to the Poet. The failure of a boy to be Rambo may just mean his success at being Rilke.

Parents should not allow themselves to be deluded by a pop culture that blinds itself to the wonder of boys and men. Few parents will produce the next Bard of Avon, but each child needs his/her parent’s love. That should never be withheld because a boy seems to be insufficiently “manly.” “Man” has a million definitions, all of which are valid and many of which are wonderful. Parents who try to confine their male children into a pinched, narrow idea of manhood do themselves and their children a grave disservice. That goes double for parents who withhold their affection from boys out of strange concern that giving it is in some way detrimental to him.

I wanted to find some data on this and went to google scholar. One study I found was not that promising in terms of sample size:

Risk Factors for Violent Behavior in Elementary School Boys: Have You Hugged Your Child Today? - Jonathan L. Sheline, MD, MS, Betty J. Skipper, PhD - 1994

The parenting practices most strongly associated with violent behavior in our study were lack of affection shown by either parent, especially fathers, and use of spanking for discipline.

As said before small sample size. I however came also across this:

Handbook of Parenting Volume 1 - Children and Parenting - Chapter 7 - Parenting Girls and Boys - Campbell Leaper - 2002

First, mothers may be more verbally stimulating than fathers when interacting with their young children. The meta-analysis of Leaper et al. (1998) indicated that across studies mothers tend to
be more talkative with their children than are fathers. In this way, mothers and fathers may offer different role models to their children about the importance of verbal expression —which might both maintain and perpetuate the stereotype that women are more talk oriented than men. Second, the meta-analysis indicated that mothers tended to be more talkative with daughters than with sons. [...]

Besides the differential amounts of talkativeness that parents may demonstrate with daughters versus sons, there may be differences in parents ’ reactions to girls ’ and boys ’ communication initiatives. Fagot and Hagan (1991) found that, among parents of 18-month-old toddlers, sons received more negative comments in response to communication attempts than did daughters. Consequently, the authors suggested, boys may find it less enjoyable to initiate talk than do girls. [...]

More physical contact has been observed in mother– daughter than in mother –son pairs during the toddler years (Austin and Braeger, 1990; Clarke-Stewart and Hevey, 1981; Lamb, Frodi, Frodi,
and Hwang, 1982) and early childhood (Benenson, Morash, and Petrakos, 1998). Fathers may also be more likely to make physical contacts and maintain closer proximity with daughters than with
sons during the toddler years (Snow, Jacklin, and Maccoby, 1983) and possibly into adolescence and adulthood (Barber and Thomas, 1986; also see Barnard and Solchany, in Vol. 3 of this Handbook; Parke, in Vol. 3 of this Handbook).

In addition to physical touch, simply talking to a child may foster a sense of closeness. If so, mothers appear to engage in more talk with daughters than with sons—as seen in the meta-analysis
of Leaper et al. (1998). The effects were especially large from infancy through early childhood — which is notable because these are the years when children typically spend the most time with their mothers. To the extent that sons are engaging in fewer conversations with their mothers, they may develop a greater sense of separateness and independence. Once again, we must be cautious when interpreting the causal direction in the pattern of results.

A third way that parents may express affection is through the use of supportive statements. The meta-analysis of Leaper et al. (1998) uncovered some trends across studies. There was a small yet significant overall trend for mothers to use more supportive statements with daughters than with sons. The pattern of results is consistent with the relatively greater emphasis on affiliation associated with the socialization of girls compared with that of boys (e.g., Block, 1983; Leaper, 2000b; Leaper, Hauser, Kremen, Powers, Jacobson, Noam, Weiss-Perry, and Follansbee, 1989).
In sum, the research literature suggests that parents may express more physical and verbal affection with daughters than with sons. In these ways, parents may both initiate and encourage interpersonal closeness during girls ’ development. [...]

Whereas the evidence for parent-gender differences in emotion talk may be mixed, studies more reliably show that parents’ talk tends to be different with daughters and sons during early childhood.
First, parents tend to discuss more emotional experiences and use more frequent and varied emotional words and references with their daughters than with their sons (Adams et al., 1995; Dunn, Bretherton, and Munn, 1987; Eisenberg, 1999; Fivush, 1998; Flannagan and Perese, 1998). Thus, parents may give their daughters more opportunities to practice emotion talk than they give their sons (see Melzi and Fern ´andez, 2001, for a possible exception under different cultural conditions).

Second, in addition to differing in the amount of emotion talk, parents tend to vary in the type of emotional talk used with girls and boys. References to sadness or discussions of sad events are
more likely with daughters than with sons (Adams et al., 1995; Fivush et al., 2000). In contrast, parent–child conversations about anger are more likely with sons than daughters (Brody, 1999;
Fivush, 1991). Anger is a self-assertive emotion, and therefore its expression is congruent with the traditional masculine role. In contrast, sadness is a more passive and self-reflective state.

A third gender-related pattern seen in the literature is that parents may teach girls and boys to think differently about emotions. With daughters, parents may tend to emphasize the emotional situation and experience itself (Fivush, 1989); with sons, they tend to discuss the causes and consequences of the emotions (Cervantes and Callanan, 1998; Fivush, 1989). Parents may thereby strengthen the notion in their children that girls should be more emotionally sensitive and understanding, whereas boys should be in control of their emotions.

Is there any evidence that variations in parents ’ emotion talk with daughters and sons may affect their children ’s own emotional development? One study suggests that there may be a relation. Dunn, Brown, Slomkowski, Tesla, and Youngblade (1991) looked at mothers ’ conversations about feelings with their 2-year-old toddlers. They found that mothers tended to discuss and explain feelings more with their daughters than with sons at this age. Approximately half a year later, there was a correlation between mothers ’ earlier emotion talk and the older child ’s level of emotion understanding. Of course, it is possible that daughters were already more advanced in emotional development at the younger age and that this influenced the mothers ’ behavior. Nonetheless, the findings of Dunn and her colleagues suggest that parents ’ behavior may have an impact on the child. Three more studies provide some corroborating evidence for the potential influence of parents on the development of gender differences in emotion expression. First, Fuchs and Thelen (1988) examined school-age children’s expected outcomes from their parents for expressing particular emotions and their stated likelihood of expressing emotions. Boys were more likely than girls to expect negative reactions for expressing sadness, and negative expectancies were related to being less likely of expressing sadness. Thus, boys may have internalized from their parents a display rule about the expression of sadness.

A second source for inferring possible parental influences comes from Bronstein, Briones, Brooks, and Cowan (1996). They carried out a longitudinal study of emotional development in children
from fifth grade (11 years of age) into late adolescence. Overall, adolescent girls reported more support for emotional expression than did the adolescent boys. [...]

Finally, Brody (1997) offered evidence suggesting that nontraditional upbringings may influence girls ’ and boys ’ emotional development. She looked at the relation between fathers’ amount
of involvement with their children and the children ’s emotional expression. Fathers ’ involvement appeared to influence daughters and sons differently. Sons of highly involved fathers were more
likely to express nontraditional emotions such as fear and warmth. Daughters of highly involved fa-thers were less likely to express fear and sadness. Thus, it would seem that involved fathers fostered tenderness in sons and self-confidence in daughters. [...]

Gender-role options are more rigidly defined for boys than for girls during child-hood, as illustrated by the different connotations that the terms sissy and tomboy evoke (Martin, 1990).

That was a lot and that was a book full of studies which I skimmed through and copied interesting tidbits in. However, there seems to be a scientific basis for those claims, I have my data and can finally publish this post.....YEAAAAAAAH.

No comments:

Post a Comment