New Study: Dads treat their sons and daughters differently
When asked which of our kids is our favorite, parents typically say “I love them all the same”. We push to get our girls to be equals in science and sports when competing with the boys and try to teach our boys to appreciate cooking and staying in touch with their emotions. And it’s all in the the best intentions of a parent and in the name of (gender) equality and balance. But do we really “love them all the same” and is our treating them “equal” put in practice? A new study suggests not.
Its results showed dads of toddlers tend to be more attentive to their daughters versus their sons.
The study – which was published in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience — was done by researchers at Atlanta’s from Emory University.
After observing dads and kids, the team found a “striking difference” in the ways fathers talked and played with little girls versus little boys.
For one, the study found dads of girls spend about 60 percent more time attentively responding to them. They also talked more freely about feelings such as sadness.
Meanwhile, dads of boys spent roughly three times as long each day doing rough-and-tumble play, and were more likely to use words associated with achievement. Words like “win,” “best,” and “proud.”
So, on the surface, most parents’ intuition is to treat their kids equally, but these findings dont support that in action during the toddler years. if true, why do dads treat their toddler boys and girls differently? At this point, that part isn’t clear – they may be hard-wired through evolution or genetics to treat the genders different ways.
What’s a little more well-known is that the ways boys and girls are treated by their dads can influence their personality.
Here’s one example — because it’s more common for dads of little girls to use words tied to unpleasant emotions (“tears,” “lonely,” and “cry,” to name a few,) scientists think this may allow girls grow up to have more empathy.
On the other hand, because dads of girls use more words to describe the body or appearance – think “face,” “fat,” or “belly”– there’s a possible link to body image issues that are common among young women.
And for boys, researchers found dads can be less attentive to their emotional needs – something that may lead them to show fewer emotions as men.
The takeaway? Parenting is complicated and sometimes what we think we’re doing is different that what actually takes places. This may be how we’re hardwired and there is no changing that, there is no shame in that. Enjoy the difference.