Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Why women worry

According to an article I read on Slate last week, research has shown women tend to be more anxious than men. There are various facets to the evidence of this claim but I found one particularly interesting that concerns parenting. The article suggests the way we deal with boys and girls is different and can have implications later in their lives.
"Whether parents intend to or not, they usually treat the emotional outbursts of girls far differently than those of boys. From a socialization angle, there's quite a lot of evidence that little girls who exhibit shyness or anxiety are reinforced for it, whereas little boys who exhibit that behavior might even be punished for it".

UCLA anxiety expert Michelle Craske has written a book called Nerve, in which she gives the example of a parent's response to their child falling over and crying. With a boy, you're likely to brush it off and tell them to be tough, no need to cry. If you have a daughter, you're more likely to give them comforting hugs and kisses.

She goes on to say that," on top of this, cultural biases about boys being more capable than girls also lead parents to push sons to show courage and confront their fears, while daughters are far more likely to be sheltered from life's challenges". The consequences are that boys grow up with a capacity to cope with challenges and address problems that cross their path, whereas women can become anxious in the same situations, often lament of them to others and generally avoid dealing with them directly.

It made me think about my own parenting. As a mother of a boy, I can relate to the attitude of trying to toughen him up and encourage him to be a fighter.  I can see that a gentler more nurturing approach might seem more natural with a daughter. What do you think? How do you treat your son or daughter in the example given above of when they fall over and cry? Let's not forget that the parenting aspect is just one of many mentioned in the article I read and is not solely responsible for creating women who worry.  I'm not suggesting we take this too seriously but it's something that caught my attention and I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.


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1 comment:

  1. Interesting thoughts. Haven't got time to read the whole article now but can comment in regards to my own parenting. I only have a toddler girl at this point in time but when she falls over I try not to make a huge thing of it so that she won't cry just because she thinks she ought to. It's not even conscious on my part, I just don't like crying (repressed, moi?) so try to avoid it in myself and others if necessry. However, I'm very free with hugs, kisses and cuddles but I honestly think I'd treat a boy and girl the same in regards to falling down, encouraging confidence, and so on. I've seen little boys to be what I consider over-mummied and grow to be a little oversensitive, so I would probably deliberately avoid that.

    But with my girl I don't think I need worry anyway, I'm raising a little tomboy who, whilst she has some definite feminine wiles up her sleeves, just has that sparky kind of personality that means she's not one to be a wallflower - which is strange because both her Dad and I are naturally shy people who have struggled but had to force ourselves to try and overcome it.

    Thought provoking, especially with all the Cameron "calm down, dear" debate currently going on xX


Thank you for reading. I'd love to have your comments and thoughts!