'Daddy's little girl' theory is proven by research

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But what does this mean for little boys? Results of this study bring to light what is perhaps the beginning of gender differences in society.

Dads and daughters - there certainly is an extra-special bond between them, making the saying 'daddy's little girl' so delightfully true in many ways. 

Now, there's scientific clout backing this sweet bond between daddy and daughter. 

According to the results of a study published in Behavioural Neurosciencefathers of toddler girls pay more attention to their little ones than dads of boys the same age. 

But are the finding all 'sugar and spice and all things nice' or are there more serious implications? 

daddy's little girl

The study On 'Daddy's little girl'

Researchers from Emory University and the University of Arizona collected data from over 50 dads of toddlers (30 daughters, 22 sons). The fathers had to wear small computers on their belts for one weekday and one day of the weekend. 

Any sounds made in 50-second intervals every nine minutes during the 48-hour period as well as night time interactions in the child’s room, were recorded by the device.

Further to this, the dads had to go through MRI brain scans while looking at pictures of unknown adults, unknown children and their own kids, with neutral, happy and sad facial expressions. 

The results

Upon analysis, the results of the study revealed that,

  • Dads of daughters showed greater response to their little girl's happy facial expression
  • Dads of sons showed greater response to their boy's neutral facial expression. 
  • Dads with little girls spent approximately 60% more time responding to their kids than fathers of boys. 
  • Dads of sons spent three times longer than dads of girls, playing with their kids.
  • Dads with daughters used more language referencing the child’s body, such as “belly,” “foot” and “tummy” (the study notes that this is linked to future academic achievement).
  • Dads with sons were more likely to use words such as “win,” “proud,” and “best.”

What does this all mean? 

Lead researcher of the study Jennifer Mascaro says, “The fact that fathers may actually be less attentive to the emotional needs of boys, perhaps despite their best intentions, is important to recognize.” 

In other words, even the parents of boys and girls unconsciously treat and respond to their children differently, feeding into the whole gender difference debate. 

Of course, the small sample count can be considered as a limitation of the study, as well as the fact that it did not include representatives of different cultures. However, it still provides a good insight to unconscious gender labelling and the need for parents to be more aware of this in their interactions with their kids. 

Dr. Mascaro acknowledges that most dads are doing the best they can, but hopes her research will encourage them to think about how their child's gender may be influencing how they interact together.

What about dads of boys? 

Dads of boys can have a lot to do in shaping their child's level of emotional intelligence. The fact that dads seem to respond less to the emotional side of their boys goes against research highlighting the benefits boys get to connecting with their emotions. 

Studies such as these are a great way of identifying this gap, and coming up with methods that allow dads to connect to and nurture the emotional side of their sons. 

Ultimately, whether you have a son or daughter, as parents the aim should be to treat them equally. This involves being aware of what we say as well as our body language and actions. 

Change starts at home after all, right mums and dads? 

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