Sons might not be seen as affectionate or loving as daughters if the distinction between affection and emotion is not properly understood. Are we shortchanging boys (and even girls) by adhering to common stereotypes that say boys are less affectionate than girls simply because they are not generally as emotion-driven? The question remains, are sons more or less affectionate than daughters?
Though sons may be more affectionate than daughters in some instances, boys and girls are equally affectionate when the proper definition is understood. Emotions and affection are often falsely equivocated and daughters are labeled as more affectionate when they may simply be more outwardly emotional.
This sort of designation is rather subjective even when taken at face value. When we look deeper we see that differences in sons and daughters exist in general terms, but each individual may have more or less of every quality and often times, environment plays a role.
Read on to find out how parenting, genetics, sex, personality, and even environment play a role in the affections our sons display, and how to be more aware of the ways stereotypes influence us in this area.
Table of Contents
The science behind low affection in men and boys
What does science actually say about male affection? Is it true that men lack affectionate qualities and traits or is that an idea that’s just evolved over time? As well, what is actually meant by affection versus emotion?
Read on to see what I’ve learned.
The Distinction Between Emotion and Affection
Professor Francesca M. Cancian of the University of California, Irvine, explains in Gender and the Life Course that one reason boys are depicted as less affectionate than girls is that the definition of love is skewed out of their favor. She says, “love is feminized in our society….only women’s style of love is recognized.”
It becomes clearer then that demonstrative types of affection are what’s seen as love and recognized. If boys show affection in other ways than verbal expression such as “I love you” or outward touch like hugs and kisses, then it’s not likely to be noticed.
Let’s take a closer look, however, at the distinction between emotion and affection and how those are defined, and thus, recognized in society in general.
“Emotion is a state of feeling.” Merriam-Webster
Psychologists have been studying basic emotions for decades, with leaders of the field first agreeing on 6 basic emotions: anger, happiness, sadness, disgust, surprise, and fear. And later leaning more towards a combination of emotions manifesting in 27 variants that include anxiety, envy, boredom, admiration and so on (reported by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, September 2017).
But how do we demonstrate emotion or recognize someone’s emotional state?
Well, one way psychologists do this is to look at facial expressions and other bodily displays. If someone is smiling broadly, he or she is assumed to be happy. However, we’ve all heard of people hiding their true feelings behind a smile, so this isn’t necessarily evidence of happiness after all, is it?
In this meaning we can see that outward signs of emotions can be directly tied to affection.
“Affection is a feeling of liking and caring for someone or something,” according to Merriam-Webster
We can then deduce that affection comes from one’s emotional state.
Thus, if men or boys (sons) are less likely to show outwardly their affection, then they are identified as less affectionate, and consequently, less loving than women and girls (daughters).
Does testosterone make boys less affectionate and more aggressive?
Yes, and no.
First, it’s true that traditional studies have shown a causal relationship with higher testosterone and increased aggressive outbursts and impulsivity. But we should keep in mind that this isn’t the same as not having ability to show affection.
Let’s keep digging. There are more recent findings that shed new light on the issue.
Testosterone and Relationships
Reported by Psychology Today (May 2014) a connection between testosterone levels and relationship quality has been made. This says that males and females in committed long-term relationships have lower testosterone than their single counterparts As well, those who report higher relationship satisfaction have lower testosterone.
They go on to say then that males as well as females who are more nurturing have lower testosterone. But they also claim that good relationships reduce testosterone, and this happens for both males and females.
As well, the same study explained that people (male and female) who tend to spend a lot of time in a competitive environment show an increase in their testosterone levels, too.
Ultimately, they conclude that testosterone levels are alterable by environment.
Testosterone and Social Standing
Another study found that testosterone wasn’t as much as a predictor of aggressive behavior as it is for higher social standing or dominance. This study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry was able to link male testosterone level with high social dominance but low physical aggression, in contrast to early studies.
In this study, comparable peers were asked to rank unfamiliar boys based on perceived social dominance. The boys who were ranked high also had high levels of testosterone in contrast to boys who ranked low by their peers. However, those who ranked the lowest by their peers are the ones with records of physical aggressive behaviors.
What does all this mean? Well, to the researchers in both cases, it implies that testosterone isn’t to blame for low affection as much as environmental factors.
Are Sons More Affectionate Towards Moms Than Dads?
Boys are no more affectionate with moms than with dads. It’s just that the affection manifests in different behaviors.
Whereas a boy may wrap an enthusiastic hug around his mother, he’s more likely to pounce on dad as soon as he sees him and start a wrestling match.
As a mom of three sons (and one daughter) I would not say my sons are more or less affectionate with me than their dad. Rather, I’d say they showed their affection differently.
When little, my sons picked me dandelions after playing outside and would need a hug (and Bat-Man band aid) from me when they fell down. But they would see daddy coming in the door after work and stop whatever they were doing, run up to him with big smiles, ready to be chased down the hallway.
They made us both elaborate cards for birthdays and kissed us both ‘good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite!‘
How A Mother’s Affections Can Shape A Son’s
An affectionate mother can enable a son whereas a dismissive mother can hinder a son. It is really as simple as that.
Mothers have a profound affect on their sons from infancy to even into adult years. Even when sons say they don’t, they still care what their mother says.
When a mother has expectations of a young boy and supports him, he sees her view of him as his own. Studies have shown that a mother’s positive or negative perception of her son actually shaped the child so much that he conformed to the perception within a few short months.
How a mother views, reacts to, and attends to her son so greatly affects the person he will become, that it is seen by some social scientists as the single most important factor in a child’s development.
Does that sound like a mother’s affections can shape how her son shows affection? It sure does.
Are Daughters More Affectionate Towards Dads?
Whether current fads in political correctness want us to believe it or not, we all know boys and girls are different. Generally speaking, girls are more in tune with their emotions. Now, I did not say in control, just in tune.
This manifests itself in their actions and affections towards their fathers. What some may see as a difference qualitatively is really more a difference of substantively. Girls don’t love or show affections toward their Dads and Moms in the same way.
This doesn’t mean they love one more than the other. It is just that it is displayed differently.
Girls tend to confide more of their secrets and even embarrassing ‘girl stuff’ with their moms than dads ever hear. This builds in a bit of distance that allows for a more easy relationship.
Moms sometimes hear the deep dark secrets and have a more serious relationship with daughters. This just equals different and not better or worse.
How Do A Parents Outward Signs Of Love Affect Their Kids?
Kids, sons and daughters alike, learn a lot more by what they see their parents do than what they hear them say (or try to ignore while they are saying it). Outward signs of affection towards each other are not only good for them, but are instructive for their kids.
Affection Between Parents Affect Children
One of the quickest ways to shake the foundations of a child’s world really no matter the age is to let them see their parents disrespect each other. Arguing about legitimate topics within reason is one thing, but crossing lines and hurling insults and the like has a lasting impact on sons and daughters alike.
Outward signs of affection have the opposite effect. It allows kids to move out from the family environment to other things with the knowledge that everything is right at home. This kind of confidence opens the door to success and allows them to focus on goals ahead.
Affection Between Parents and Sons
There is a problem with a hot topic floating around in today’s parenting circles. It is taken for granted that boys have been conditioned to be less affectionate by expectations and societal norms. Though there are grains of truth here, the argument has been taken light years away from reality.
Many societal expectations on different gender is not based on a template that is forcibly or arbitrarily laid over both boys and girls. It is a reflection of the traditional leanings of most of them.
Boys can at times be helped by outward signs of affections by their parents. Though, if it becomes a tool to force unnatural emotional displays onto a boy or worse yet, to expect them from him, problems can arise.
In general, boys are naturally going to shy away from such things. Offering it is a good thing in moderation, so sons can learn to moderate themselves appropriately. Extremes in either direction are not good, or healthy.
Affection Between Parents and Daughters
The same sorts of things apply to daughters, but maybe in the opposite direction. Some parents advocate a more ‘masculine’ approach to girls to ‘toughen them up’ and help them cope with a ‘man’s world’.
This is a disservice to a young girl who may be more predisposed to an emotional relation to her surroundings. Simply denying that it exists due to societal fads claiming that it shouldn’t is neither productive or healthy.
Affection from parents is a good thing and should be no different than that shown to boys as long as it is tailored to the individual girl. Some may respond to it and some may shy away from it. The norm usually has girls a bit more in the ‘snuggle bunny’ column, but environmental and biological factors will play a part.
The fact is, affection is necessary for girls and boys alike.
Daughters on average will be more prone to accept and return such outward signs, but it is only in degree and there are always exceptions.
Do Dads Show More Affection To Daughters?
There is something to be said for Moms and Dads showing more affection for children of the opposite sex. It is a natural thing for there to be differences and not something to be looked down on. Yet, is it really more affection or just different types of outward displays?
Dads may snuggle a daughter more, but wrestle a son more. There may be beside chat to wake up a daughter in the morning, but a full on Nerf gun assault on a sleeping son to wake him.
It may be deemed as ‘more’ by some, but the same by others when comparing how dads interact with daughters vs sons. The same can be said for how daughters show affection for their dads. It will be different in kind more than likely as opposed to difference in degree.
Do Moms Show More Affection To Sons?
Here we are talking about the same thing as above. Moms are at times seen as harder on their daughters and more forgiving of their sons. Being women and in a society that is failing women and men on many fronts, she knows the difficulties each will face and usually responds accordingly.
She may seem to be more lenient on a son when what is really happening is teaching the son to be more empathetic.
It may from the outside appear that a mother has stricter rules for her daughter when in reality she is trying to help her understand the unique dangers girls face.
Oversimplifying usually is a disservice for any topic. It also applies here. Like with dads and their daughters, mothers usually aren’t showing more affection to their sons, it is just an issue of the kind of affection and the goals she has for each.
How Media Stereotypes Shape Our Thinking
Have you ever wondered why all the dads on sitcoms are morons? How about all of the women who took on the role of mothers to their doofus husbands? There is a definite agenda in the media, though they will lie to us and tell us that there isn’t.
We hear so often that all girls want to be given the choice to do traditional ‘boy’ things, and the same about boys and ‘girl’ things. Yet, when the wish lists of each come out for birthdays, Christmas, or even sports to participate in, the numbers fall in line with traditional estimates. And that’s okay!
Is this simply parents strong arming their kids into conforming to what they want as the media tries to imply? Or is it how we are made and the way we are wired even if some on the fringe don’t want it to be so?
Sons don’t show outward affection the same way daughters do because they are boys. This is not derogatory to sons or daughters. They are both different and that is the way it is supposed to be.
Toys were made to fit the demand throughout history. Not the other way around.
Regardless of what the media says, evil parents with their oppressive agendas haven’t had a world wide conspiracy for generations trying to make sons and daughters fit roles. The roles are just naming what is already there.
Wrapping Up Are Sons More Affectionate than Daughters?
Sons are not more or less affectionate than daughters in a real sense. It is an issue of kind rather than intensity.
Boys and girls are different in general and when you come down to the individual, there are thousands of influences that come into play.
In general, you will find that boys display affection differently. Some parents may want to shape how their children react to them and there are those that won’t fit traditional paradigms. Though, more times than not, girls will be more outwardly affectionate and boys will simply show it in other ways.
So are sons more affectionate than daughters? Yours may or may not be, but most sons just show it differently than daughters.