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We hear a lot from women about how they wish their partner was more in touch with his feelings. We hear a lot from mental health specialists how men find it hard to connect with their emotions.
What has been assumed by many of the origins of this ‘problem’ has now been confirmed by a new study. And it flies in the face of those who try to perpetuate the mythical stereotype of the man who tells his sons to toughen up, with the mother cuddling him.
Canada is known as one of the most feminist countries of the world and it is there that the University of Guelph undertook its study.⇩1Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science; Implicit attitudes about gender and emotion are associated with mothers’ but not fathers’ emotion socialization; Kristel Thomassin, Jessica A. Seddon They found that it is mothers who push gender stereotypes more than fathers.
We found that on an implicit level, moms tend to show a bias, and this bias considers girls expressing these emotions to be more favourable than boys expressing the same emotions.
We expected that both moms and dads would favour girls crying over boys crying. That’s based on the stereotype that boys shouldn’t cry. We did find that – but only for moms.
Mothers actually think that girls who express anger are more pleasant or more acceptable than boys who express angerProf. Kristel Thomassin, psychology professor and lead author of the study
The study involved nearly 600 parents of children between the ages of eight and 12. It follows from an earlier study on parents, children and emotions.⇩2Journal of Family Issues; A Thematic Analysis of Parents’ Gendered Beliefs About Emotion in Middle Childhood Boys and Girls; Kristel Thomassin, Oana Bucsea, K. Jacky Chan, Emma Carter; DOI 10.1177/0192513X19868261
While the study may shed light on the biases mothers and fathers have when it comes to children expressing emotions, the researchers say the study’s findings must be viewed with caution: the study is a reminder of how gender stereotypes may influence thinking, but its results may not reflect how parents actually respond to their own children in real-world situations.
Whether it’s ‘boys don’t cry,’ or saying something like ‘my child is shy,’ when we label them we are prescribing them how they need to be.Caron Irwin, child development expert and founder of Roo Parenting
|⇧1||Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science; Implicit attitudes about gender and emotion are associated with mothers’ but not fathers’ emotion socialization; Kristel Thomassin, Jessica A. Seddon|
|⇧2||Journal of Family Issues; A Thematic Analysis of Parents’ Gendered Beliefs About Emotion in Middle Childhood Boys and Girls; Kristel Thomassin, Oana Bucsea, K. Jacky Chan, Emma Carter; DOI 10.1177/0192513X19868261|