Research says THIS is the reason we need to parent boys very differently
I never fully believed that boys and girls were all that different – certainly not when they are small – until I had one of each of my own and could see for myself just how – at least when it comes to certain traits and behaviours – different they really are.
Where my little girl was always a social butterfly, outgoing, content and confident in new settings and with new people, it always seemed to take my little boy that little bit longer to let go of my hand and join in the games or approach someone or something new.
Interestingly, a new study has now shed some light on this subject, and why we actually need to parent baby boys differently to how we parent our little girls.
In an article written by Darcia Narvaez Ph.D. in Psychology Today entitled, “Be Worried About Boys, Especially Baby Boys” the author says we should be worried about how we are treating boys early in their lives.
The reason? Boys mature more slowly both physically, socially and linguistically than girls. As well as this, stress-regulating brain circuitries mature more slowly in boys both prenatally, perinatally and postnatally.
What this means, according to the author, is that boys are affected more negatively by early environmental stress, inside and outside the womb, than are girls.
“Girls have more built-in mechanisms that foster resiliency against stress, whereas boys are more vulnerable to maternal stress and depression in the womb, birth trauma (e.g., separation from mother), and unresponsive caregiving (caregiving that leaves them in distress),” Narvaez writes.
“Exposing newborn male . . . to separation stress causes an acute strong increase of cortisol and can therefore be regarded as a severe stressor,” Dr. Narvaez cites. Repeated separation results in hyperactive behavior, and “changes . . . prefronto-limbic pathways, i.e. regions that are dysfunctional in a variety of mental disorders.”
Boys need to be treated with kindness and cuddles
The research also shows that boys should be treated with “tenderness and respect for their needs for cuddling and kindness.”
“Mothers, fathers and other caregivers should avoid any extensive distress in the child—‘enduring negative effect.’ Instead of the normalized harsh treatment of males (‘to make them men’) by letting them cry as babies and then telling them not to cry as boys, by withholding affection and other practices to ‘toughen them up,’ young boys should be treated in the opposite way.”
At 6 months, boys show more frustration than girls, and at 12 months, boys show a greater reaction to negative stimuli.
Even more importantly, the research shows that boys are more vulnerable to neuropsychiatric disorders that appear developmentally, such as autism, early onset schizophrenia, ADHD, and conduct disorders. These have been increasing in recent decades, and the author wonders if this could indeed be linked to putting kids younger and younger into daycare settings.
“Boys . . . are more demanding social partners, have more difficult times regulating their affective states, and may need more of their mothers support to help them regulate affect."
In fact, Schore says that separation from the mother at an early age is detrimental to the boys’ brain.
“In light of the male infant’s slower brain maturation, the secure mother’s attachment-regulating function as a sensitively responsive, interactive affect regulator of his immature right brain in the first year is essential to optimal male socioemotional development.”
Well, this is certainly interesting, I think, and just goes to show how utterly damaging those old "toughen up" and "boys don't cry" ideologies really are.