Baby boys are more vulnerable to stress than baby girls, but here is how you can help
A study has found that baby boys are more vulnerable to stress than their female counterparts – and that parents need to look at how they can minimise this as best they can.
Dr Allan Schore, a clinical psychologist from UCLA, wrote a paper on the issue, and claims baby boys are actually a lot more vulnerable than we think – which is something parents need to be aware of from the word go.
In “All Our Sons: The Developmental Neurobiology and Neuroendocrinology of Boys at Risk,” which appears in the Infant Mental Health Journal, Dr. Schore explains there are actually major differences between male and female brain development, even in the earliest stages of life.
In baby boys, the right area of the brain develops at a slower rate than baby girls, and, as well as this, boys seem to have less self-regulating stress hormones than baby girls (even in utero). This, according to Schore, means they are more vulnerable to the effects of environmental, physical, and social stressors.
Girls, on the other hand, seem to be born with more resilience to these stressors (as if we didn't know who tough we are, ladies!).
Dr. Schore believes that these vulnerabilities in baby boys are what make them more susceptible to neuropsychiatric disorders that appear early in life like autism, early onset schizophrenia, and attention deficit disorder (interestingly, girls seem to be more vulnerable to the disorders that appear later in life). As well as this, Dr. Schore points out that baby boys are also more likely to show frustration than baby girls at six months old, and at 12 months, baby boys show more intense reactions to negative stimuli.
What his means, according to the expert, is that when they are very young, we need essentially to protect our baby boys a lot better in what is perhaps their most vulnerable state in life.
Schore advises parents to be extra responsive to their baby boys' needs, and be unafraid of showing both affection or attachment. “In light of the male infant’s slower brain maturation,” says Dr. Schore, “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.”
We are not for a moment saying you shouldn't also do this with your baby girls, but, in light of all this, with your baby boys especially, pile on the TLC. Cuddle him as much as you freakin' feel like. Pick him up when he cries. Let him sleep in your bed if he (and you) wants to. Cover him from head to toe with kisses.
And never tell him to “man up” or “boys don’t cry” or any other absurd thing no one should ever actually say to a child. Trust us; everyone will be better off because of it.