There’s a lot that has been written about gender differences in parenting. There are differences in parenting style between moms and dads, and there are differences in the way parents treat girls and boys. But I was wondering whether there’s a difference in the quality of the relationship between different dyads. In other words, is there truth in the terms “daddy’s girl” and “momma’s boy”?
There are several indicators of parent-child relationship we could look at. Language, for instance, is one of those indicators. Do mother talk differently than fathers? Do we talk differently to our boys than we do to our girls? Turns out, the answer is yes and yes. This is rather old news: a meta-analysis (study on studies) done by Campbell Leaper and his colleagues at University of California in Santa Cruz, showed, for example, that mothers talked more with their kids than fathers did. However, interestingly, this difference was less likely to be found the more recent the study was, so it could be that by now fathers, who have become more and more involved in child-rearing (as per this article), are talking to the kids as much as mothers do. The differences between mothers’ and fathers’ language use was pretty small for school-aged kids and teenagers, but was quite big for the toddler years, probably reflecting the fact that mothers are typically more involved than fathers with younger kids, and this difference diminishes as the child grows (and mom goes back to work, perhaps). Another interesting finding is that mothers talk more to their daughters than they do to their sons. This difference is most pronounced, again, in the toddler years. This study, however, was published in 1998, and examined studies that were published from 1969 to 1993.
I think this is very important. If you may recall, I’ve discussed in my last post why the language that parents use is important for their children’s cognitive development – specifically, their ability to resist temptations. Children internalize their parents’ talk. If it’s mom that talks to them, they will internalize mom’s voice. What does that mean for us as a society?
I actually started this post because I am very much aware that both my kids are daddy’s kids. My boy is now starting to ease off daddy a bit and sometimes, grudgingly, is willing to allow me to put him to bed (daddy was always first choice before). My daughter’s eyes light up when she hears the door opens when daddy comes back from work, and all she wants is to snuggle with him. That said, I’m lucky (or very well planned) and my kids have a very involved father. So I can’t separate their admiration for daddy from the fact that daddy does every bit of child-care tasks as I do. I know that I sure talk to them differently, but I don’t think it has anything to do with their gender. Rather, I find that because of their different personalities, my bond with each of them has its own characters and dynamics.
So what do you think? Do your kids show preference to one parent? Do you treat them differently? Is it gender-related?