Most mums admit favouring sons, say researchers

Survey of 2,500 for parenting website reveals 90% of mothers treat boys and girls differently

Mothers are more critical of their daughters than their sons, and admit to having a having stronger bond with their little boys, according to research.

While they praise particular characteristics in their sons – seeing them as being "funny", "cheeky" and "playful" – mothers admit that they are likely to denigrate their daughters for showing similar attributes, referring to them instead as "stroppy", or "argumentative".

The 2,500-strong survey by parenting website Netmums found that although almost one half of mothers say they know it is wrong to treat boys and girls differently, almost 90% admit they do exactly that. Mothers are, the research shows, twice as likely to be more critical of their daughters than their sons, while over half admitted that they feel a stronger tie to their son than their daughter. The research shows that mums "type" their children according to gender, with boys being labelled with far more positive traits than their sisters. More than one in five mothers questioned admitted that they turn a blind eye to behaviour of boys for which they would reprimand their girls.

Crissy Duff, a psychotherapeutic counsellor, said this combination of a more critical upbringing and attributed negative personality types can have a long-lasting and serious effect on daughters.

"Women in particular seem to carry the feelings of parental disapproval and negative typing into their adulthood," said Duff. "The experience of receiving more negative reinforcements for stepping out of line than their male counterparts can lead women to view themselves as more needing of censure. This could be why women are far more self-critical than men, who have a more happy-go-lucky attitude when it comes to making mistakes and moving past them," she added.Almost half of the mothers questioned also admitted that their sons are mummy's boys. Over one in four confessed to loving their boys differently to their girls.

Siobhan Freegard, co-founder of Netmums, said: "As a mum of two boys and a girl, I know first-hand that, try as we might, it can be very hard to treat all of your children the same. This is a great wake-up call to mums to help break these gender cycles and even out the differences in how the sexes behave and think about themselves. It's a powerful call to change the current gender dynamics, which is a huge ask, but an achievable one."


Amelia Hill

The GuardianTramp

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