by William Skink
A former professor put up an article on Facebook about why boys need more emotional support than girls. It’s a very interesting read. Here is an excerpt:
In a 2000 study entitled “The Fragile Male,” Sebastian Kraemer states that baby boy brains are actually more fragile than baby girls’. Even in the womb, boy brains are more reactive to maternal depression and stress, while at birth, baby boy brains lag behind girls by a full six weeks.
Research has also shown that boys have higher cortisol levels (the stress hormone) after a traumatic birth where they were separated from their mothers, or their caregiver was unresponsive.
Kraemer argues that female brains have an early advantage that stays with them throughout childhood, while boys struggle and trail behind in a variety of areas.
As boys age, they can continue to struggle, which, when compounded by the lack of emotional support, only gets more serious. Although scientists go back and forth on this, it is thought that males are more prone to dyslexia and difficulty with reading and language, making school and learning difficult. Boys are also more likely to have childhood onset conduct disorder and are two to three times as likely to have ADHD than girls.
These neurological differences that researches are studying are then exacerbated by cultural stereotypes of masculinity, further depriving boys of the emotional support they need for their development.
What broader implications could studies like this have on our understanding of why men behave the way they do? Could being deprived of emotional support early in a boy’s life lead to acting out violently later in life? And what does this say about the effort to equalize the sexes? In conflicts between men and women, women are often the victims of male aggression. Does this gap in early emotional support complicate those roles of aggressor/victim?
It’s something to think about, especially now as men are being broadly demonized due to the individual actions of men in positions of power. Instead of just blaming men and the entrenched power of the patriarchy they represent, maybe studies like this will lead to a better understanding of what boys need in terms of support, and if that understanding leads to changes in providing that support, both men and women could benefit.