Fathers Are More Attentive to Daughters Than Sons, Says Study

The “daddy’s little girl” trope might actually have some truth to it. According to new research published in Behavioral Neuroscience, fathers with toddler daughters are more attentive and responsive to their needs than fathers of sons of the same age.

The study, which monitored fathers for 48 hours by having them wear brain-scanning MRI caps and recording their daily interactions with their kids, found that dads of sons indulged in more rough-and-tumble play — and encouraged the boys by using language about “winning” and achievements.

By contrast, fathers sang more to their daughters and spoke more openly about emotions.

“If the child cries out or asks for Dad, fathers of daughters responded to that more than did fathers of sons,” said lead researcher Jennifer Mascaro of Emory University. Interestingly, fathers of little girls spent about 60 percent more time paying attention and responding to their child, as compared with those with sons.

She also noted, “The fact that fathers may actually be less attentive to the emotional needs of boys, perhaps despite their best intentions, is important to recognize.” However, Mascaro added that if fathers are more present and attentive to daughters and open to expressing emotions, that may help girls develop more empathy than boys, so fathers of sons could take the same approach as fathers of daughters.

“Most dads are trying to do the best they can and do all the things they can to help their kids succeed, Mascaro said. “But it’s important to understand how their interactions with their children might be subtly biased based on gender.”

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