Parenting And Sex Differences In Children: When Nurture Reinforces Nature

Parenting And Sex Differences In Children: When Nurture Reinforces Nature

Parenting And Sex Differences In Children: When Nurture Reinforces Nature
Rhawn Joseph, Ph.D.

Parenting And Sex Differences In Children: When Nurture Reinforces Nature

Because females are smaller, less muscular, and more emotional, and due to sex differences in language, competition, aggression, and facial expression, females tend to convey the message that they are weak, submissive, dependent and even fearful starting in early childhood. This is also a consequence of their possessing a female limbic system and relatively low amounts of the masculinizing and activating hormone, testosterone. As such, parents and males in general, not only interpret these female cues and respond accordingly, they also invariably reinforce these attitudes such that young girls begin to receive the message that they are more sensitive, helpless and weak, a message that they are simultaneously (albeit unconsciously) transmitting.

In contrast, males are more assertive, combative, competitive, and belligerent, even as toddlers. Beginning perhaps in early childhood, many boys tend to think in terms of action, acts of conquest, mastery of themselves and others, and independence and autonomy. Although their behaviors and attitudes may be promoted or diminished by training, many a parent who has tried to raise a boy in a "non-sexist", non-aggressive fashion have been surprised when their little 3 year old begs for a gun or spontaneously takes a stick and pretends it is a weapon. This is a consequence of testosterone and the aggressive male limbic system. World wide and across cultures little boys show the same propensity for creating weapons out of sticks and stones (Eastman; ref), and even male chimpanzees are much more likely to use these items as weapons or as part of an aggressive display (Goodall; Kummer. Jolly).

Conversely, across cultures and time, little girls have shown a propensity to play with dolls, and to use sticks, vegetable matter, corn cobs, and even small animals as dolls (Eastman, 2006, Zitkala-Sa;/ Sasson, 2017). They will dress corn cobs or little animals as babies and will in fact baby them. When boys play with dolls (i.e. toy soldiers) they use them for killing and aggressive displays. Females begin to behave in a nurturing manner by their second year of life.

Moreover, young female chimps, baboons, rhesus monkeys, and gorillas demonstrate these same desires to baby and nurture the young (Goodall, Elia, Fedigan, Mitchell; Jolly). By contrast young male primates usually ignore their infant siblings or will interact with them in an aggressive manner (Mitchell, 20015; Imanishi, 2015; Suomi, 2012; Goodall; Fedigan).


These same sex differences in submissiveness, dependence, nurturance vs aggression and dominance are also displayed through body language even during childhood. For example, in contrast to females, young males often tend to stand with a wider base and are much more likely to invade the space of others. They also tend to gesture more away from the body or toward their genitals, thereby drawing attention to the most aggressive parts of their anatomy (ref).

Young as well as older males also tend to move around more and take up more space when sitting or standing as their arms and legs are more likely to be extended out. Even during infancy males are more active and more willing to move about and interact with their environment (ref). As such, males display aggressiveness and domineering tendencies regardless of external conditions, and frequently present the possibility that one's space will be invaded.

In contrast, even when behaving in a sexually provocative manner, females tend to keep their arms and legs closer together, gesture more toward their own body, and move about less (Glass, Eibl-Eibesfeldt; Fast; ref), which in turn decreases the likelihood that their behaviors will be interpreted as belligerent, threatening or invasive. When coupled with their smiles these actions diffuse the likelihood of violence while simultaneously suggesting vulnerability and the potential of sexual submissiveness (Wickler, Eibl-Eibesfelt).


Females also display a less aggressive and more dependent nature even by the manner in which they touch and hold others. When females touch it is likely to be much more gentle and caressing than a male who tends to use much more force. Females also tend to engage in more self-touching 3 and tend to be reluctant to touch a man unless they know him well or are soliciting for sex.

In fact, because males are more invasive, assertive and aggressive, they touch other males as well as females, much more than a woman would touch a man. Even in regard to simple touching, a woman is almost four times more likely to be touched by a man than vice versa. However, when men touch men this contact is usually very brief and consists of friendly slaps, slugs, punches, and pushes 5.

In contrast, females are far more likely to engage in more prolonged and extensive touching. Women and girls are much more likely to hug, touch, hold hands, kiss, sleep together, and make repeated and long lasting physical contact with one another but are quite reticent to behave in the same manner with a man unless they are lovers or family (Joseph, 1993; Goodall; Mitchell). However, because they hold and touch one another so frequently, their behavior is suggestive to males of insecurity and the need for constant reassurance.


Due to these differential biological urges and neurological predispositions, many men and boys behave assertively, attempt to control others, and think in terms of what they can make happen. They break and take things apart, tease each other sometimes unmercifully, pick up guns and shoot each other, play army, spaceman, cowboy and Indian, conquer the world and kill their enemies (Gaylin, Ross).

Many little girls and women tend to think in terms of what others might do to them, what might happen to them and thus tend to see themselves as being potentially controlled by others, or even as victims (ref; deBuvior). Little girls are not only less inclined to act in a physically assertive manner but are often warned about taking risks and the dangers of the outside world and what might happen to them. They tend to be wary of strangers, and are frequently warned not to let little boys (or men) touch them in certain ways or look at certain body parts (ref). They must be wary and concerned about being hurt and seeking protection, and rightly so, as they are not as big, strong or as powerful and combative as males. Hence, in contrast to males who think in terms of "what they can make happen," many girls tend to think in terms of what might happen to them, as they are by nature less physically intimidating.

Girls are even taught they have less control over themselves, including their own body. The onset of menses is one example of a sometimes upsetting event which happens to them. Rape and pregnancy are also something which can happen to them. Men have sex and can walk away. Women have sex and can have a baby. And, so they are warned, if that happens to them , and the man does not marry them, who will take care of them? All these are events over which they supposedly have little or no control.

On the other hand, the human female is certainly capable of behaving in an active and assaultive manner, as is evident throughout history. This includes a willingness to kill for their supper or to strike, injure, or give their husbands, boyfriends or children a thorough verbal lambasting. Poisoning kin who displease them and killing those whose assets intrigue them, also tends to be well within the limits of female aggressiveness.

Female humans and primates, however, are more likely to rely on threat and screaming and are more willing to direct their venom toward other females and avoid directly confronting strange males. Females are also more likely to be indirect and manipulative as well as passively aggressive (Gill, 1986; Brenner & Vinacke, 2017; White & Rowberry, 1997; DeBeuvior; Friday) and to only attack or kill males with whom they are intimate.


There are strong cultural and parental influences bearing on what is considered male vs female behavior (yes, even in our enlightened society). However, since males tend to act aggressively whereas females are less physically violent beginning in early childhood, both sexes tend to solicit and reinforce these cultural and parental expectations.

Females who behave in a more attached, less active and in a seemingly dependent or even fearful manner are likely to be treated as such by their parents, siblings, or friends. Moreover, via their display of socially appeasing body language, such as smiling or crying, females tend to produce social signals which reduce their exposure to belligerent and violent actions and therefore their ability to model and learn such behaviors.

The greater width of the female hips, their reduced upper body strength, even the manner in which they sit, run, and climb also contribute to these differential expectations and behaviors. When these limitations are coupled with parental expectations and the risk of losing parental approval and love, their behavior is correspondingly affected.

However, these sex differences are also innate and are apparent to even very young children, which is why boys and girls prefer to interact with members of their own vs the opposite sex. Young children in fact tend to have very rigid concepts as to what are appropriate gender related behaviors and sex roles (Eaton, 1983), especially for males. At an early age they know what are girl vs boy toys, clothes, and activities.

For example, masculine toy preferences are demonstrated by males as early as age two and they will request and play with cars, trucks, weapons and actions figures. Conversely, by age 3 most girls increasing ask for tea sets, dolls, and cradles (Liss, 1981; Conner & Serbin, 1977); preferences which have been demonstrated across time (Parten, 1933) and culture (Zitkala-Sa; Eastman).

However, boys tend to be much more rigid in regard to what they consider acceptable clothes, activities or toys, and will strenuously reject what does not strike them as appropriately masculine. Although most girls prefer "girl" toys, many see nothing wrong with engaging in "boy" activities. However, even these "tomboys" increasingly develop stronger preferences for girls toys and activities as they age (Robinson & Morris, 1986; Blakemore et al. 1979).

Nevertheless, in general, young children tend to reject toys as well as activities that seem gender inappropriate (Bussey & Perry, 1982; Huston & Carpenter, 1985; Carter & McCloseky, 1984) and will not play with what they do not find fun. Hence, most parents respond to the requests of their children when buying toys (Robinson & Morris, 1986), the exceptions being gender neutral toys such as art and educational items which parents generally choose. Males and females find different toys and activities pleasurable; a consequence of the manner in which their limbic system has been organized.


Since children have stereotypical views of what is appropriate and acceptable, and because boys are more rigid than girls in these beliefs, males who engage in activities or play with toys associated with the opposite sex tend to be rejected and ridiculed (Green, 1977; Fagot 1977; Berndt & Heller, 1986). Both boys and girls as young as 8 years of age disapprove, ridicule and reject boys who are "sissies," or who act or behave like girls. Even homosexually inclined "straight" acting males reject "sissies" and find their behaviors aversive (Tripp).

Unfortunately for these "sissy" males, their behaviors not only seem inappropriate, but are indicative of appeasement, fear, and subordination. They thus inadvertently invite attack and ridicule from those seeking someone to dominate. However, even parents (Feinman, 2001; Green, 1975), especially fathers, tend to reject "sissy" sons, in part because he views the boys behavior as embarrassing.

In contrast, girls who behave like "tomboys" are readily accepted by peers and parents (Green, 1977; Fagot 1977; Berndt & Heller, 1986). Perhaps in part this is because "tomboys" in contrast to "sissies" tend to display aggressive behavior and act in a domineering fashion. Hence, their behavior does not invite attack.

Not only children, but parents tend to be accepting of "tomboyish" behavior (Feinman, 2001; Green, 1975; Williams, et al. 1985), even when they might prefer that their daughters behave in a feminine fashion. However, "tomboys" are generally seen as passing through a phase that tends to disappear once they reach adolescence. In fact, the vast majority of "tomboys" later accept and identify with femininity and prefer males for sex partners.

In contrast, parents tend to fear that if their "sissy" son does not act in a stereotypical male fashion, he is going to be harmed socially and emotionally by the reactions of others. These parents also tend to fear that he may become a homosexual (Antill, 1987; Green, 1975). This may be a correct assumption for "sissified" boys do tend to engage in homosexual activities as adults (Bell, et al. 1981; Saghir & Robins, 1973; Grellet et al. 2012; Green, 1987). Indeed, from 67% to 75% of homosexuals vs 2%-3% of heterosexual males reported being "feminine" and more like girls than boys as children (Saghir & Robins, 1973; Green, 1987). These boys preferred girl toys, girl friends, girl clothes and many in fact wanted to be girls.

Nevertheless, as these "sissy" boys tend to be rejected and ridiculed by other children, and receive numerous negative messages and pressures from their parents, especially their fathers, not surprisingly, they often tend to be unhappy, depressed, and maintain a negative relationship with their peers and parents (especially their fathers). In consequence, "sissified" boys are far more likely than girls to be referred for treatment (Green, 1975) as they are viewed as maladjusted and likely to develop future personality difficulties.

Given that 30-35% of adult male and female homosexuals have significant drug and alcohol addictions, as well as numerous other social difficulties, including tendencies to form relationships with other homosexuals who batter and "cheat" on them (see Chapter 10), it is apparent that the need for treatment is quite significant. However, as homosexuality appears to be innate (see Chapter 10), it is not their orientation but their emotional adjustment, self acceptance, and tendencies to engage in self-destructive sexual activities which should be dealt with.


Men and women significantly differ not only in neurological organization, but their belief systems, behaviors, thoughts, emotions, and expectations. They also tend to expect to encounter these difference when interacting with members of their own or the opposite sex. This includes the manner in which they view the actions and the speech even of their children. As such, they may inadvertently reinforce and reward these "expected" sex differences when they are encountered, interpret them as occurring when they are not. Or they may respond negatively when their children, especially their sons, behave in a manner that is not sex appropriate; i.e. masculine. These differential ways of responding not only effect the manner in which adults and children interact, but the way in which parents and children treat one another.

As is evident in regard to boys who are "sissies," parental and peer pressures, including "treatment" exerts little sway in regard to the development of masculine vs feminine behaviors. Heterosexual and homosexual male and female attitudes, behaviors, play, and sexual interests appear across cultures, and among other animals, and are innate. However, these parental pressures can result in the child or adult feeling miserable or developing severe emotional and psychological problems (see Chapter 11).

Nevertheless, because these sex differences are innate, males and females not only recognize and expect members of the opposite sex to behave in a certain fashion, but they display, respond to and reinforce these sex differences even during early childhood. Hence, males tend to view females as weak, coy, and overly emotional, whereas females tend to view males as crude, boisterous, loud, and potentially dangerous beginning in early childhood.

Males and females often adjust their behavior when interacting with members of the opposite vs their own se (Ref). Similarly, adult males respond and speak to men and boys somewhat differently than they do with women and girls, and vice versa. Likewise dads and moms respond somewhat differently to their daughters as compared to their sons. Many fathers treat their daughters as if they are helpless, fragile and might break (ref). For example, when on outings, adult males will carry their female infants and children, even more so than mothers, whereas they are much more likely to walk with their sons (Burns, et al. 1989).

Girls also tend to receive much more warmth and affection from both their mothers and fathers as compared to boys (Block, 1978; deBeauviour). However, in some cultures this is not the case as the female sex is viewed as having little value. Nevertheless, almost regardless of culture fathers tend to be much more strict, authoritarian and rule oriented, and much more likely to met out physical punishment with sons, particularly if the boy behaves aggressively (Block, 1978). In general, it is largely a girls sexuality that a father (as well as a mother) may attempt to rigidly control.

This does not mean that parents impose behavioral and gender specific characteristics on their children for often they are merely reacting to innate characteristics, those of their children as well as their own. That is, children often influence the behavior of their parents as much as their parents effect them (Bates, et al. 1985; Bell, 1968; Belsky & Rovine, 1987; Chess & Thomas, 2012; Crockenberg, 1986; Goldsmith et al. 2016; Pianta, et al. 2009; Kagan, 1984; Rosen & Chmiel, 2012; Sroufe, 1985; Thompson, 1986, Vaughn, et al. 1989; Weber et al. 1986).


A father is more likely to be competitive and to speak gruffly with his son vs his daughter, because his daughter is more likely to provide him with appeasement signals whereas a boy may act more overtly rebellious. A boy is even more willing to disobey and talk back to his mother vs his dad. His mother is not as imposing or physically threatening. Nor does she does not punish him as much or severely for this behavior. Primate males are no different (Fedigan, Mitchell, Goodall; Elia).

Moreover, her voice is high pitched and more child-like and conveys appeasement tones rather than aggressive threat. Hence, boys tend not to take their mother's threats seriously. However, if mom were to say, "wait till your father comes home," this is likely to bring almost immediate compliance as he knows the threat is real. Although rebellious, he is less willing to engage in direct competitive struggles with his dad.

A daughter is also more likely to engage in competitive struggles with her mom vs her dad, as both are often seeking the father's love and attention (Friday, Secundo, deBeauvoir; Norwood; Forward). However, a girl is also more likely to be encouraged to remain dependent by her parents because she often behaves in a more helpless manner and seems less competitive and self-confident. On the other hand, autonomy and independence is tolerated less and does not tend to be encouraged in girls until a much later age than in boys (ref). This is because she is less physically imposing whereas boys are much more aggressive, competitive and likely to rebel and demand his freedom. However, this too is innate as mother baboons, chimpanzees and other primates also restrain their daughters much more than their sons (Fedigan, Devore, Kummar, Mitchell, Goodall; Elia).

In many instances, however, a boy may be encouraged to strive for independence before he is willing or ready. Conversely, a girl who behaves in an assertive, aggressive, competitive, or "tomboyish" fashion may receive overt as well as covert messages of disapproval that her mother or father is not even aware they are transmitting. For example, although the little girls "masculine" behavior might be overtly accepted, mother may still sigh or nod her head in disapproval giving the girl a clear message that this behavior does not make her happy. These sometimes overt often subtle differences in the manner in which boys vs girls are treated may be manifested through the tone and melody of the voice, body language, touch, and attitude as to what is appropriate behavior vs what is not (Joseph, 1992b).


Young human and primate males are more independent and are urged and desire to separate from their mommies at earlier age than females. They also tend to identify with other males, including adult males or their fathers at a rather early age (Mitchell, 1979; Fedigan, 19; Goodall, 19; Nicholson, 1977; Imanishi, 1965; Suomi, 1972). Overtly, young human males also disavow and seemingly reject all things "feminine," including mother and her warm secure embrace. They also receive more encouragement and are reinforced for behaving in a "masculine" manner.

Hence, young human males are told that "a man doesn't ask to be held," "a man doesn't look at himself in mirrors," "a man doesn't cry," and "a man doesn't play with little girls." Boys are encouraged to master problems on their own, whereas little girls are more likely to be encouraged and rewarded for being helpless (ref).

Independence and a need to reject and control their tendencies to behave dependently are pressed upon boys at an earlier age than little girls (ref). As a child he was applauded when he acted cute, silly, sweet, clinging, and coquettish. When he reaches elementary school he is scorned for these same actions. He is urged and coerced into becoming a "little man," which fortunately is his desire. Long before he has become a teenager he increasingly discovers that he will obtain adult and peer approval only by seeming to be independent, self reliant and strong.

Boys are expected to play rough and hard and may be threatened if they cry, even when they get hurt; they are told to control their very emotions and to deny and cover up any weakness. However,this is a male tendency to begin with due to their competitive aggressiveness and impoverished emotional perceptual and expressive capability. Hence, when they respond emotionally it tends to be aggressively, threateningly, and through rough and tumble play, or as a depressive withdrawal.

Little girls, in general, do not receive as much pressure to control their emotions or to separate from mommy or daddy, nor are they as desirous as males to do so as their natural inclinations is to maintain family ties (Cowan & Kinder, Norwood, Forward, Friday, deBeauviour; ref). Independence and autonomy are not, relatively speaking, pressed upon them until much later, nor is it their desire. Many little girls not only desire but learn that they are expected to be "feminine". When they cling to their mommies and seek nurturance, they are not as likely to be rebuffed. In fact they may be encouraged, particularly in that much of their behavior is more friendly and socially rewarding and more suggestive of dependence or helplessness.

Fathers are not likely to admonish young mothers for babying their daughters, or complain that mommy is turning them into a homosexual or sissy. As compared to little boys, crying and clinging and a failure to separate is more acceptable for females until a much later age, and this is true not only for humans, but primates as well.

As compared to little boys, many girls tend to receive an abundance of verbal and non-verbal cues, be it facial expression, tone of voice, body language, etc., all of which inform them that, relatively speaking, it is OK to to stay closely attached or even cling to their mother's skirts (or her hairy coat), to seek adult attention and protection, and to exaggerate helplessness or even fear. Of course, little girls (like little boys) are also sometimes told, "Quit that crying or I'll really give you something to cry about!"

Mothers, having their own needs which a baby may satisfy, including their own feelings of dependency and attachment and a reluctance to let go, are allowed to more freely vent these desires with their daughters. There are fewer repercussions, for example, from her husband, if she is babies a daughter versus a son. Hence, a little girl's mother is more likely to fuss with her hair, dress her in dainty little outfits, and encourage her to be "mommy's little doll."

Through expectation, agreeable glances, warm body contact, and soothing speech, dependence, passivity, cuteness, coquettishness, and even manipulativeness are approved, reinforced and accepted for much longer time periods than would ever be tolerated in a young male. Males are likely to be encouraged to behave in an autonomous fashion and are pressured to disavow infantile, babyish, and dependent behaviors. Girls find these tendencies are met with acceptance or even encouragement for a much longer period of time, especially by their fathers (ref).

In consequence, many normal and innate tendencies are often enhanced and even reinforced in both girls and boys. However, although tomboyish behavior is accepted in daughters, it is her more feminine side which is likely to receive the most approbation. She is rewarded more for being a girl than for developing her innate competitive and aggressive tendencies. Conversely, although the boy is also rewarded for behaving in a masculine fashion, he is, however, subject to much pressure and even punishment so as to relinquish and quash his feminine side, particularly from his father.


These innate gender related differences in behavior and attitude characterize the interactions of most children and their parents be they human or primate. However, many of these parenting modes of interacting are directly related to their own modes of acting when they were children. That is, the way in which they played and behaved as children tend to be similar to the way they play as adults with their own children.

For example, fathers are more likely to initiate play and to engage in much more active, arousing, physical and vigorous games such as wrestling and rough housing, (especially with their sons), whereas mothers engage in nurturing, highly verbal, much less strenuous and non-aggressive forms of play such as patty cake (Lynn, 1979;/ Parke & O'Leary, 1976; Lamb, 1977; Power & Parke, 1982; MacDonald & Parke, 1986; Stevenson et al. 1988; Clarke-Stewart, 1980). In fact, fathers are more likely to physically play with their children, especially their boys whereas females are much more likely to verbalize and nurture them. Not surprisingly, young children, especially boys, prefer their fathers as playmates (Clarke-Stewart, 1980; Lynn & Cross, 1974; Lamb, 1977).

Hence, in many ways, the style and play activities of boys and girls become their play activities when they become mothers and fathers. Indeed, for most females, mothering was a form of play when they were little girls.


Be it a female chimpanzee, baboon, rhesus macaque, or human, females begin to demonstrate an extraordinary interest in babies and in play-mothering during even the earliest phases of their own childhood (Devore, 1964; Kummer, Suomi, 2002; Mitchell, 2009; Goodall; Jolly; Elia; Fedigan, deBeauviour, ref).

When girls play together, much of their fantasy and conversation concerns fashion and making out and revolves around adult relationships, including the raising of a family and the behavior and misbehavior of children (their dolls). Babies are of enormous interest to females, be they human, ape or monkey, and those who have babies usually become tremendously popular and the center of attention (deBeauviour, Jolly, Mitchell, Elia, Fedigan, Elia). Even among women enslaved in a harem, once she becomes pregnant and has a child, her status is quickly and permanently elevated (ref).

Mothers, grandmothers, young and adolescent females, and even women who describe themselves as "feminists" show much more interest in babies than do men, even when the baby is not their own (Berman, 1990; Nash & fledman, 2001a; Frodi & Lamb, 1978; Melson & Fogel, 1982; Azhn-Waxler et al. 1983; Berman & Goodman,m 1984; Blakemore 1981, 1985, 1990). Adolescent girls spend significantly more time talking about new baby's than boys (Berman, 1990), and mothers spend more time talking about the baby with their daughters than their sons (Berman, 1990). Girls not only talk more but play and care for their infant sisters and brothers significantly more and show consider amounts of nurturant interest in the babies well being (Blakemore, 1990) even when there has been no request or pressure to do so. Indeed, girls often demonstrate an intrusive interest in babies (Berman, 1983), and will give infants much more care than they require (Ainsworth & Wittig, 1969), as if often the case with mothers (Stewart).

Similarly, among non-human female primates, be it gorilla, chimpanzee, baboon, rhesus macaques, lemur, and so on, even those without infants will eagerly seek to groom, cuddle, and carry the child as much as the mother will allow (Jolly, 1972; Devore, 1964; Kummer, Suomi, 1972; Mitchell, 1979; Goodall, 1971) and may spend all day passing them back and forth. Like human females, some will even steal these infants. Those female primates who show the greatest interest, however, are young females who had not yet had babies.

Moreover, among almost all social primates, the birth of a new baby has an extremely excitatory effect on all the other females of the troop who will gather around and touch, stare, hold, and cuddle it. This female interest, of course, is certainly quite adaptive, at least for those living in the dangerous condition of the wild for it insures that if a mother dies another will adopt her baby.

Such behavior is obviously not the result of sexist training for it is typical of all primates. For example, boy chimpanzees show little interest in their younger infant siblings, whereas girl chimps become increasingly fascinated and will hold and cuddle them and will attempt to model their mother's interactions with the infant (Goodall, 71). If a new mother dies but her baby has older male siblings, less than 25% will adopt the little orphan whereas females siblings are quite anxious and happy to take this role.


With the exception of the baboon (Rowell et al, 2008; Kummer; 1999; Mitchell, Fedigan), lack of interest in infants is characteristic of most social male primates and almost all male mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish. This includes human fathers and men and boys in general. They have little or no interest in babies and generally do not provide care for their own or the children of others (Rossi, 1985; Gordon & Draper, 1982). Rather, like other social primates, boys seek boys for playmates and engage in considerable amounts of rough housing, wrestling, and hitting; behavior that is completely inappropriate in regard to infant interactions. When boys or male primates begin to separate from their mothers, they show no interest in younger siblings but seek out adolescent and adult males to play with. Although they may on occasion seek nurturance they seldom provide it in return.

Human males and fathers rarely behave in any manner that approximates normal female maternal behavior (Belsky et al. 1984; Clarke-Stewart, 1978; Frodi, et al. 1982) as this is simply not an activity they find interesting, pleasurable or rewarding. This is why, for example, child care professions and those involving high levels of child interactions, such as elementary school teacher, are overwhelmingly made up of women (Gordon & Draper, 1982); a function not of pay but lack of male interest (Blakemore et al. ). Rather, fathers and adult heterosexual males tend to express interest in younger males only when they reach early adolescence, and this is also true of most male primates. This is also why in contrast to elementary school, junior high and high school teachers tend to be equally male and female.


Mothers and fathers are able to provide a considerable amount of varied stimulation for their children. Together they tend to promotes normal, healthy, physical and psychological development in their youngsters, as well as modeling what constitutes normal heterosexual relations and sex roles. Children learn who and what they are not just by doing, but via observation and comparisons with other children and their parents whom they compete with and mimic and emulate (ref). In this manner, innate tendencies may be refined, strengthened, reinforced and the child is provided a variety of choices as to what he or she does or does not want to become. Of course, this is not always the case as some families are characterized by neglect, physical abuse, alcoholism and drug addiction, and other terrors; issues which will be discussed in Chapter 11.


Male primates and human begin during early childhood to show definite signs of attraction to older males, such as their fathers (Fedigan, 19; Mitchel, 1979; Goodall, 19; Kummar) and also increasingly seek the company of adult males who they model and mimic. . Males will also forage with a close male friend or male sibling or in a band of males but not with females, although females may accompany the males on occasion if they are in estrus.

By age two human boys smile, vocalize, look at, laugh, and seek out the company of their fathers much more so than their mothers (Lamb, 1977; Clarke-Stewart, 1978; Lynn & Cross, 1974). They also tend to be much more cooperative and circumspect and respectful when in their fathers presence and this is true of girls as well (Clarke-Stewart, 1978; Lamb, 1977; MacDonald & Parke, 1984; Pedersen, et al. 1980). However, be it primate or human, young males seek out adult males because they wish to be like them and thus tend to model their behaviors accordingly.

Fathers are necessary for boys to teach them that they are men (Gaylin, Ross). It is their duty to encourage their boys not to fall back into the waiting arms of their nurturing mothers every time they are confronted with adversity. It is sometimes even necessary to threaten their sons to make sure that this blissful symbiosis is not achieved, for if his son becomes a sissy, what does that say about the masculinity of his dad. If little else, many men see it as their job to turn their sons into men and to teach them to control their fears and the expression of their emotions. If they fail to do so, their feminized boys will be met with ridicule and social isolation.

However, often there is a struggle between the mother and father over who will control or punish the boy's behavior or inform him as to what is right and wrong, particularly if the man is not the biological father. Mother's often fear that her husband is asking too much of her baby, for she sees nothing wrong and is often gratified that her little boy still needs or even prefers to associate with his mommy. However, despite a mother's misgivings, to be a man requires that a boy associate and be accepted by men and to have his own aggressive and violent tendencies shaped, thwarted and punished by them.

Men must learn to control their aggressiveness and to deny weaknesses and conquer fear, be it the fear of a charging animal who is about to be impaled, or that of a line drive flying directing at the boy's face. If he runs or cries, he is a coward and everyone loses. He who marshals and faces his fears, becomes the better hunter, and the better ball player. When a boy comes home crying after losing a fight, his father is very likely to demand that he quit crying and may even show him how to fight and then encourage him to seek out the bully and beat him up, or explain to him why it is necessary that he stand up to bully's in the future.

Mothers do not think like men and are ill prepared for assisting their sons to meet masculine challenges. They are much more likely to baby him when he comes home crying as they see nothing wrong with it. However, the boy who is allowed to be a crybaby at home, becomes the laughing stock of the school yard despite his mommy's good intentions.

Those who cannot controls their fears, who cower behind their nurturing mothers, also tend to have difficulty controlling their anger. Unfortunately, anger often becomes a substitute for fear, and many little boys who are raised without fathers become angry dangerous men who often behave inappropriately because they are hiding a hurt little boy in the recesses of their soul (see Chapter 11). In contrast, the boy who can control not just his fears but his anger is the individual most likely to be respected as a man.

Boys need a father, and women who believe and act otherwise often damage their sons. Among all social primates, males quickly disengage from their mothers and seek out adult males whom they then begin to emulate. This is an innate desire striving for expression. It is not nurturance they seek but male approbation and approval for acting "like a man." In fact, even when little boys are hurt and bleeding, if it is not terribly serious, they tend to avoid their mother's protective and nurturing arms and will try to tough it out. If she tries to tend to him, he may run away or feign indifference or conversely act as if he is embarrassed by her attentions; particularly if there is any chance he is being observed by other boys.

Many a mother has also discovered, much to her chagrin, how much her little son will avoid her hugs and kisses and even seem embarrassed by her presence when she is merely dropping him off at school. At all costs he must not let the other guys see his mom or allow her to hug or kiss him in their presence. They might think he needs his mommy's protection or her affection, which in turn would be a sign of weakness.

Human or primate, juvenile and adolescent males look to other males in order to find themselves and to establish themselves as males. A boy and his ego is always linked to the larger world of other boys and men against whom he competes so as to establish his status and role in comparison (Gaylin, Ross). Mothers and women represent dependency. Other men are challenges to be overtaken and whose approbation is often sought. His sense of self worth is dependent on the quality and number of his victories and accomplishments and has little to do with his mother's doting, nurturing charms or her willingness to understand and comfort him if he fails. Men become men in the eyes of other men against whom they measure their own ego.

Men expect much more of each other because they expect so much more of themselves. This is especially true of fathers, for his son is a reflection of the father as a man. This is yet one more reason why a boy needs a father and is unnecessarily damaged when dad abandons the family and his responsibilities, or his mother has adopted a political philosophy that is counter to normal child rearing.


When fathers are absent and boys are raised solely by their mothers there are often negative consequences, including increased delinquency, truancy and failure at school, early drop out rates, increased criminality and sexuality, as well as a likelihood that the male, as an adult, will abandon his own children or develop homosexual interests or behave like a "sissy" (Biller, 2014; D'Andrade, 1973; Munroe & Munroe, 1971; Hetherington,2009; Emery, 2012; Kagan & Schilling, 2015; D'Andrade, 1973; Munroe & Munroe, 1971; Peck,. 2011). Feminization and the adoption of female body language, including a propensity to easily cry, or a failure to control aggression is likely among these fatherless males because fathers are largely responsible for enforcing gender roles and rules, by modeling and reinforcing what is appropriate masculine behavior and punishing that which is not (Biller, 1981; Peck,. 1981).

Regardless of sex, children who are raised without a mother or a father, due to death or separation, are far more likely than those raised in normal heterosexual families to develop depression, anxiety and panic disorders (Kendler et al. 1992(4,37,38): Tweed et al.8; Tennat et al.14;). Children need both parents (Dinnerstein, 1976; Huston, 1983; Joseph, 1992b; Harris).

In general, however, boys need mothering far more than fathering during the first two or three years of their life. It is only after the age of two that a fathers presence becomes extremely important and this is true for all social primates (ref). For example, despite his mother's concern and caution, young male chimps will often seek to establish contact with the most dominant males, even when the adult indicates this is not to his liking and strikes or chases him away. Even if punished, the young male will continue this association and will soon be modeling and mimicking the behavior of his hero. Among humans, if there is no father around, as is increasingly the case in American society, the boy is faced with a vacuum which he must fill by whatever means available, including the violent and overly sexual images transmitted by the media.

Moreover, because of his natural tendency to seek independence and autonomy and due to his awareness of the intrinsic differences between males and females, as he ages, his mother will have increasing difficulty exerting control unless she has bound him tightly to her as a child. However, when mothers and sons fail to detach, this can result in excessive dependency, failure to control frustration and belligerent tendencies, poor impulse control, imitation of female body language, or conversely, modeling of television depictions of super-macho male images and male violence.

Certainly little boys need their mothers, and primate as well as human males are profoundly and often irreversibly effected by lack of mothering, much more so than females (see chapter 11). However, be it primate or human, it is the male's natural inclination to increasingly seek independence and contact with adult males and father figures.


It has been my clinical experience that boys raised by lesbians are often subject to subtle psychological abuse due to the strong anti-male bias and even male hatred demonstrated by their mothers and their female lovers. Many lesbian tend to revile normal male behaviors. As mothers they often demand that their sons behave contrary to their masculine nature, and sometimes expose them to homosexual males as role model (ref). Not surprisingly, these young boys are often plagued by somatic complaints such as frequent headaches, passivity, temper tantrums, gender role confusion, guilt and embarrassment, and are easily moved to tears. Their confusion and guilt is even more greatly magnified when their lesbian "mother" has a live in lover and they both demand to be loved equally by the boy. They may also expect him to climb into their bed and snuggle between them (ref).

As based on published documents regarding lesbian child rearing practices, it is apparent that some of these women and their supporters do not believe that exposure to normal heterosexual male role models is in the child's best interest (ref; Steckel, 2005, 2007). Unfortunately, much of what is published in this area is more political than scientific, and most of these "studies" are authored by lesbians and homosexuals who have a political and sexual agenda which they make very clear and obvious. This includes frequent demands that heterosexuals (especially females) should engage in "intimate" relations with lesbians and male homosexuals so as to get over their prejudice (ref; Patterson, 1992; Rich, 19; Maggorgie, 19). Not surprisingly, according to some of this literature, children raised by lesbians are rated as more normal and better adjusted than those raised in loving heterosexual households and that it increases self esteem (Huggins, 2014; Steckel, 2005, 2007; Gottman, 20130; Patterson, 1992).

As noted, however, the scientific (non-political) literature indicates that boys raised without fathers often behave abnormally and in a socially inappropriate manner once they become juveniles and adults. The sky rocketing teenage murder rate is an undeniable testament as to the consequence of boys raised in fatherless households.


It is because males are innately aggressive that fathers are so important and why authoritarian rules of conduct must be imposed and physical threats and punishment must be meted out when those rules are broken. Boys do not fear their mothers. It is fathers who can exact control by a simple look or verbal threat. It is in this way that boys learn to control dangerous impulses and to channel them in healthy competitive and constructive activities.

It is because of the boy's innate aggressive, challenging and competitive nature that fathers are often compelled to treat them with a firm if not iron hand. It is also why he requires that his son, unlike his daughter, learn to marshal these innate forces so as to become a self-sufficient and resourceful man rather than a punk and a cringing useless coward who is a menace to society and an embarrassment to the male sex.

Increasingly boys are brought up without fathers, in households where the primary influences are wrought by televisions and actors who glorify killing and indiscriminate sex. Not surprisingly, increasingly males kill each other over parking spaces, for being cut off in traffic, or for even wearing an item of clothing that the gun toter wishes to possess. Over 35% of Black Males are raised without fathers (ref) and violence is epidemic in black communities (e.g. Oakland, CA, East Palo Alto, CA, etc.). Guns, of course, are the great equalizer for before guns, a man had to have some skills with his weapon or he would be quickly brought down by someone more adept. Now the lowliest coward can bring down a hero, and this has been a frequent lament since the invention of the gun almost 500 years ago (O'Conell, 2016).

In 2005 over 58,000 males under the age of 18 were convicted of violent crimes, the majority of whom were raised in fatherless homes or those lacking paternal discipline or presence. In 2015 this figure doubled to over 112,000, and these numbers represent just those who were caught and convicted. Given that over 270,000 guns are estimated to be brought to school on any single day, 99% of which are carried by boys, it almost seems as if a whole generation may well have been lost. What will become of the next?



Because of innate temperamental differences between boys and girls, daddy is much more likely to be solicitous, helpful and loving with his little daughter who does not require the same degree of stern physical admonishments to be brought under control. Young girls are in fact quite solicitous of adult males and their fathers in particular and not uncommonly behave in a helpless and coy manner which often triggers paternal care and protection (deBeauviour; Friday, Secundo, ref). The same is true of most social primates (Fedigan, Devore; Elia; Goodall, Shaller; Kummer). In fact, all too often even the adult female will exaggerate her degree of helplessness which male primates in turn find attractive.

Like other male primates, most dads will likely reward his daughter for being obedient and passive and nonadventurous. In contrast boys are much more likely to be told and to receive innumerable messages that they are expected to act independently and to take risks, which is their natural inclination anyway. Girls are more likely to solicit protection and to be told that daddy will watch over and protect them (ref; Friday, deBeauvior). If she needs some money, daddy may reach into his deep pocket and produce the little monetary gift she desires. If his son needs some money, dad is more likely to sternly give him a lecture and tell him to get a job, or go mow the lawn first.

It is not unusual for a father to feel a sense of pride if he has raised "a real man" for a son, and to be less concerned if he has reared a dependent, somewhat helpless "little princess" for a daughter. Just as his son's masculine behavior reflects positively upon him and his own masculinity, the helpless cuteness of his daughter may be a rewarding indicant of his manliness as well. It feels good to have his little girl make him feel so strong, protective and important via her smiling, friendly, coy, helpless, dependent manner which he has reinforced and rewarded so vigorously.

Many (but not all) daddies also do not mind being manipulated by their daughters and may even secretly enjoy their coquettishness and coy manner (deBeauviour; ref). If his young son were to act similarly, which they often do, dad is more likely to find it irritating. He is willing to tolerate and do things for his little girl, whereas similar actions would be intolerable in a son whom he expects to do things for himself.

At an age where most little boys are being sent outside to play baseball, many little girls are still being held on daddy's knee. He is still calling her "daddy's little girl," and is speaking gently and sweetly to her much more so than he would ever consider appropriate for his son (ref). In fact, parents may differentially speak and act in this manner with their children, even when they try not to and have no desire to force a sex role on their child. Indeed, I was surprised when I caught myself using a different tone of voice when interacting with a male vs a female puppy.

However, just as wives and girlfriends complain about their husband and boyfriend insensitivity and emotional retardation (Tannen, Norwood, Forward), little girls are faced with exactly the same emotional vacuum with daddy (Segundo). Many feel that daddy didn't take them seriously, or was disinterested in their lives because of his disinclination to talk or share feelings. Fathers, of course, are generally unaware of this vacuum as they are neurologically limited in their ability to appreciate or share these concerns.


Little girls look to their fathers not just for love and affection, but for approval and approbation as to their emerging femininity (Norwood, Forward, Cowan & Kinder; Friday, deBeuvoir). As they age, daughters want daddy to respond to her and to love her much in the manner that he loves their mother. Indeed, it is usually through their mother than girls learn how to respond to and how to solicit responses from men. As they age they increasingly experiment not just with their femininity, but their sexuality.

Fathers often enjoy an almost celebrity status by their daughters who more often than not adore and fear them from a distance (deBeauviour, Friday, Secundo; Hetherington, 2014 ). For many women life begins with daddy and these little girls forever search for another man to fill the often imaginary role that he filled, even if it is one of ridicule and abuse (Joseph, 1992b). Many women look to their daddies in a manner that is often wholly different from that of their brothers. She not only wants to be loved, but to be desired, to be seen as unique, as a woman who is as good if not better than her mother with whom she competes for his affection (deBeauviour; Friday, Segundo).

How her daddy treated and responded to her can also affect how she believes other men perceive her as well (Hetherington, 1989; Forward, Norwood; Cowan & Kinder, Harris). Girls from intact healthy homes react with the most self-confidence when around men. Those from divorced homes are often fearful of rejection but may sexualize their fears by acting in a very seductive manner (Hetherington, 1989). However, girls whose fathers died are often anxious and fearful of rejection. These women not uncommonly develop very idealized images of their fathers who tend to become enshrined like an adored saint. As such, many of these women are constantly disappointed by men who can in no way measure up to their dear departed sainted fathers (Hetherington, 2014).

Because her father was the first man in her life it is not at all uncommon for young independent women to revert to more childlike roles when interacting with men while on a date or during a romantic evening, and sometimes during the course of a relationship or within their marriages (Secunda, 1997; deBeauviour, Friday). They expect to be protected and provided for. Females of many species, including chimpanzees and baboons are in many ways no different (Fedigan, Devore, Goodall; Elia, Mitchell).

Many women in fact began to act with lovers or husbands in the same manner they behaved with their fathers and may harbor many of the same feelings; both good and bad. If the daughter had a good relationship with her father, then sometimes these feelings and attitudes can promote the healthy growth of her relationship with a man once she reaches adulthood. However, if it as bad, if she was abused, sexually molested, or if her father was an absent, or drunken, drugged out tyrant, then the new man in her life will be viewed and interpreted and interacted with in the same manner (Joseph, 1992b; Jung; Harris, Norwood, Forward).

MOTHERS & DAUGHTERS: A SHORT HISTORY OF THE FEMININE SOUL vInsofar as most women are concerned it is their mother and not their fathers who played the most significant role in their lives (1990; Virginia Slims/Roper pole). Indeed, attachments formed with mother during infancy remain throughout life and this is true of all social primates (Fedigan, Mitchell, Goodall; Elia). Mother-daughter influences and relationships often last a life time.

Beginning perhaps over 5 million years ago when our Australopithecine ancestors slouched through the mists of time, females attached themselves to mothers and sisters, and then as they aged, with their own daughters and their daughters daughters and the daughters of her sister's. Males were a secondary distraction, useful for protection and sex and the meat they might trade for the favors of her sexual charms.

The human female spent her days gathering food and interacting with her kin, and engaged in mutual grooming, visiting, and threatening those who displeased her or who menaced her mother, sister, or their young. By time our homo sapien sapien ancestors appeared, some 500,000 years ago, and up until recently, woman was the gatherer, the preparer of foods and medicines, caretaker for child, man and brood animal, as well as tool maker and mistress of home and hearth (Joseph, 1992b, 1993). Society and social relations, like those maintained by most other primates, appears to have been matriarchal (Briffault; Lederer), a condition that began to undergo a rapid change with the advent of farming; a consequence of the tremendous amounts of silt and rich top soil left behind by the receding floods, the runoff from melted glaciers, 10,000 years ago. With the advent of farming, woman's nature did not undergo a tremendous alteration, she was just faced with additional duties including those that had been long practiced by her ancestors, with several critical exceptions. In Europe and the America's she began to be viewed as a junior adult or as a large child, whereas in the Middle and Far East her stature fell to the level of domestic brood animal, occasional sex object, and bearer of children, with no rights and no privileges (Gies, 2008; Schmidt, 1935).

For much of human history, until she was married, daughters remained attached to and learned from their mothers. A mother and her daughters, perhaps singing and talking together were responsible for much of the daily chores that could be performed close to their home, dugout or farm. Together they would plant and nurture grains, fruits, vegetables and flowers, chickens, ducks and an occasional pig, and when grown or ready for butchering or harvest, together they would gather and prepare by preserving and cooking the bounty of their creative labors.

Mistresses of the house and the hearth, keepers of the secrets of the kitchen, together they would create gustatory miracles for the palate, kneading, pounding, churning, slapping, adding and pinching, and cooking up biscuits and bread, puddings and cakes, pies, cobblers and noodles, dried fruit and sauces, and other delights (ref).

They also took special pride in hemstitching, crocheting, knitting designs, patterns, and dresses, quilts, aprons and clothes (Ring, 1993). A daughter did not just learn to cook and sew, but to hammer and nail, and to make do with the materials at hand, for most everything was made by hand (ref).

She was not just nurse maid but medicine woman, assisting through midwifery the miracle of birth, and soothing the aching heart of the widow or widower as they buried the dead. She learned the medicinal properties of plants, the diagnosis of illness, and the healing arts (Griffin, 2013; Lederer; Achterberg).

The modern daughter looks to her mother as secretary, nurse, supervisor, clerk, doctor, and entrepreneur, but no longer as teacher per se. Although she continues to model herself upon the mold of mother as career woman, as sex object, and wife, her ability to learn from her mother, to make contact with the mysterious feminine soul of what makes her female, has been terribly diminished, much to the delight and applause of those who view that nature with scorn (ref). This is unfortunate for women who enjoy cooking, sewing, and even child care are urged to deny their talents and inner natures and thus their own happiness and ability to connect with their own soul.


Be it human or primates, permanent bonds between mother and daughter have been the norm throughout all of evolutionary history. Females entered the world of males and sought their attentions only when frightened or sexually aroused. When her babies, particularly her daughters, wondered too close to the males, a mother would quickly intervene, fearful least the mercurial males might harm her young.

Many modern mothers also actively interfere with the development of strong emotional attachment between their daughters and men, including her husband. An intimate relationship with a daughter is a domain that mother's innately feel is theirs alone to share. Moreover, girls and women harbor jealousies and resentments toward other females in their competition for male affection (Joseph, 1985; Friday; deBeauviour). Not uncommonly these same jealousies arise between mothers and daughters in regard to daddy's affection (Friday). Hence, sometimes mothers will attempt to sabotage the relationship between their daughters and husbands (Secundo, 2012).

It is noteworthy that although it is supposedly a common female lament regarding the failure of fathers to actively participate in child care, that most mothers in fact discourage their husbands from doing so (Radin, 198; Lamb, 198; Parke, 1981). In part this is due to her innate wariness of adult males and her desire to maintain exclusive bonds with her babies. Moreover, when mothers were little and played with and mothered their dolls, they did not share these games with boys, and male roles were limited to infant or absent father. Hence, many women have no interest in allowing a father to interfere with this same maternal game now that she is a grown woman. Indeed, almost 80% of mothers do not want their spouse to assist with child care by becoming intimately involved with the children and either actively or indirectly discourage his involvement (Radin, 2088; Lamb, 2012; Parke, 2011).

Hence, sometimes fathers need permission to become involved, especially with their daughters. Conversely, daughters often need permission from mom in order to solicit or respond to their fathers overtures (deBeauviur, Secundo).

However, it is often necessary for fathers to come between mothers and their daughters so as to loosen her maternal grip and so as to prevent the emotional dissection and discussion of every problem or thought or misdeed. (deBeauviour; Segundo, 1992). Given a females natural predisposition to talk, self-disclose, and share and examine feelings, little girls can sometimes whither under the glare of the constant emotional scrutiny of their mothers. Hence, just as a boy needs a father as a role model, a young girl needs a father to help free her from the protective, controlling arms and emotionally penetrating scrutiny of her mother. As Simone de Beuavior once complained: "One of the curses that weigh most heavily upon women is to be left in a women's hands during childhood."


Due to ancestral tendencies, sex differences in the structure and functioning of the brain, early socializing and parental pressures, the frequent threat of incest (see Appendix A), as well as natural biological predispositions and drives which are expressed during infancy and early childhood, the inner nature and self-images of girls and boys are thus fashioned somewhat differently. One consequence of these sex differences is that males vs females experience and express pleasure in response to different stimuli, thoughts, and acts. For example, the hypothalamus and amygdala generate feelings of pleasure when males act aggressively and when they kill. In contrast, the female limbic system is wired so that they experience positive sensations and feelings when presented with creatures that are helpless and dependent, such as their own smiling babies and the infants of their relatives and female friends.

Nevertheless, boys and girls react and are treated differently and are also encouraged to make certain modifications in their behavior at an earlier or later age. They are subject to different sexual experiences even during childhood. Hence, in addition to their innate predispositions, the unconscious and conscious self-image is fashioned in a sex dependent fashion and is subject to different conflicts including much confusion.

Nevertheless, the relations between the sexes and male and female sex roles are not a consequence of some "exploitive", "capitalist" plot hatched and enforced by men. Although one may become a male or a female, they are also born that way. Indeed, males and females often behave exactly like males and females regardless of if they are born human, primate, mammal, bird, insect or reptile.


Copyright: 1996, 2000, 2010, 2018 - Rhawn Joseph, Ph.D.