Why Do Men And Women Behave Differently As Parents?

By Staff Reporter, Parent Herald March 25, 09:16 pm

The fact that men and women behave differently as parents is well-establish wisdom as old as time itself - just ask any child about the different ways their mothers or fathers punish them or reward them, and they'll be able to describe the differences between the two quite clearly. What remains to be seen is why, exactly, men and women behave so fundamentally different when it comes to parenthood.

What's the reason between the gender gap in parenthood? Here's everything we know about why men and women behavior differently when it comes to raising their kids.

Men and women believe they're different

Women and men around the world can find common ground somewhere, at least; both believe that they're different from one another, with women reporting distinctly different pressures and expectations in their everyday lives than those reported by men. Women feel immense pressure to be attractive, for instance, which is certainly something that can impact they way they raise a child, particularly if it's a girl. Men are pressured to attain financial success to a greater degree, too, which could ultimately change the way they raise and spend time with their family, especially with their boys.

Mere biology alone isn't enough, however. Social conditions and the context of parenthood are different for male and female parents. Comprehensive studies of gender disparities have uncovered that men and women aren't oftentimes as biologically dissimilar as they believe, and that instead the context in which differences between the genders are measured are really what's important. In other words, social conditioning and the expectations of those in our social circle could really be what's driving the difference between men and women when it comes to parental behavior.

It's not unfair to say that many men likely believe that they have to be harsher with their children as the father figure. Popular culture tropes aside, it's abundantly clear that men feel the need to establish themselves as parental figures and "lay down the law" when necessary, with many childhood anecdotes revolving around "going to mom" instead of dad whenever a rule (or expensive vase) was broken. The way that society expects men to behave could be forcing them to toe a harsher line when it comes to rule enforcement.

Similarly, mothers are doubtlessly restrained in their parenting style on the basis of gender. Women everywhere are frequently expected to conform to obsessive beauty standards that are difficult, expensive, or downright unrealistic to achieve. Women are more frequently charged with raising children whereas men are more often times found working, too, despite the fact that his historical trend has been diminishing in recent years thanks to feminists and labor movements. Nonetheless, women everywhere still routinely report feeling more stress than men do when it comes to life at home.

Mothers spend more time with children

Research into the way that men and women behave with their offspring uncovered an interesting, if not likely well-known fact: mothers spend more time with their children. Mothers are less likely to work full time, meaning they spend more time around the children at younger ages, and moms everywhere are routinely expected to handle most if not all of childcare work. One piece of research even backed up the age-old believe that fathers are more protective of their daughters than they are of their sons, indicating that husbands and wives have different responsibilities when it comes to preparing their children for the world.

There are reasons to believe that social expectations aren't the end of the discussion, however. As a matter of fact, some medical professionals with men's scrub sets are intent of proving a link between biological differences in the male and female brain and differences in how childcare is managed. Researchers are UCLA recently posited that the amygdala, the region of the brain most commonly recognized as dealing with emotions and social behavior - is a critical aspect of any parent's brain. The study asserts that brain science could be the real reason that men and women behave differently when it comes to raising a kid.  

It's likely that the real reason men behave differently from women when parenthood is concerned is a mixture of both social and biological factors. Ancient questions of "nature versus nurture" have plagued mankind for centuries, with few people ever falling definitively into one camp or the other. As it's becoming increasingly clear, men and women behave different as parents because their brains are different, but also because society expects different things from a male parent than it does from a female one.

Pop culture tropes and average conception of what a family is will thus likely play an important role in parenthood for the foreseeable future. Try as we might to bridge the gap between the sexes, men and women simply behave differently as parents for a wide array of reasons unlikely to change anytime soon.

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