A survey claims that moms are more critical of their daughters than of their sons — and this may be why women are "more self-critical" in adulthood.
The website Netmums surveyed 2500 women and found that they were twice as likely to to criticize their daughters as they were to criticize their sons. Fifty-five percent said they felt a closer bond with their sons than with their daughters. And they were more likely to describe boys as funny, cheeky, playful, or loving, while girls were more likely to get descriptors like argumentative, eager to please, serious, and stroppy (which in American means "ill-tempered or belligerent"). The girls' descriptions are especially interesting because they're not all necessarily negative — it's just that boys seem to come across as carefree, while moms apparently see their daughters as more calculating.
Says psychotherapist Crissy Duff of the survey,
Women in particular seem to carry the feelings of parental disapproval and negative typing into their adulthood. 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 tend to be more self-critical than men, who often have a more happy-go-lucky attitude when it comes to making mistakes and moving past them.
It's not clear whether Netmums used a random sampling of women, so their survey might not stand up to scientific scrutiny. But it's interesting, nonetheless, to think about the way moms might treat their children differently. We sometimes see men and boys as less in control of their actions then girls and women are, in situations ranging from the relatively harmless (boys misbehaving in school are "just being boys") to the criminal (men who rape women "couldn't help themselves"). This doesn't just lead to self-criticism in women — it makes everyone more critical of us, whether we're speaking in public or reporting an assault. It's possible that all this starts in childhood, with girls seen as argumentative when boys are just cheeky, eager to please when boys are just loving. And maybe the Netmums survery should motivate moms — and dads, and teachers, and the media — to ask themselves whether they punish girls for the same behavior they'd excuse in boys.
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