Negative Emotions

Science Daily reports that toddler boys may have more trouble in coping with negative emotions than their girl counterparts.

Boys, more often than girls, display negative emotions and social fearfulness according to a new study performed by the University of Illinois.

Nancy McElwain, an associate professor of human development at the University, observed 107 children in gathering data on children’s social and emotional development and parent-child relationships.

Children were examined at 33 months and again at 39 months and their parents were asked how they would respond to their children’s behavior in several hypothetical situations.

“We investigated two types of parental reactions to children’s negative emotions.  One type was to minimize their child’s emotions; for example, a parent might say, ‘Stop behaving like a baby’.  Another type of reaction was punishing the child for these emotions.  A parent might send a child to their room or take away a toy” Engle stated.

Parents who punished their kids for fears and frustrations were more likely to have children who were anxious and withdrawn.  This type of response to punishing parenting styles was more prominent among toddler boys.

Engle observed, “When children are upset, it’s better if you can talk with them and help them work through their emotions rather than sending then to their room to work through their feelings on their own.  Young children, especially little boys who are prone to feeling negative emotions intensely, need your comfort and support when their emotions threaten to overwhelm them.”

One response to “Negative Emotions”

  1. Keith D. says:

    I can’t help but wonder what role social conditioning as it pertains to the difference in how boys and girls are perceived and treated plays in these results. Do parents unconsciously treat boy toddlers differently than girl toddlers? Would the results be reversed if the treatment and interaction with others were reversed? I’m sure there would still be differences based on chemical and physiological differences, I just wonder what those would be.

    In my own personal life, I have several nephews, and they span the gamut in regards to how “sensitive” they are– from very boyish on the one side to very sensitive but not feminine on the other– and I do notice that they are each treated differently by their parents, and by extension by others. That surely has some effect on the coping strategies and mechanisms they develop that will follow them throughout their lives.

    When I think about the implications of these kinds of things, I can’t help but feel it’s a miracle that parenting works at all, and that any of us actually reaches adulthood. LOL

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