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Men Are Generally Less Emotionally Intelligent Than Women

November 14, 2014

I can’t stop laughing. That is a direct quote: “men are generally less emotionally intelligent than women.” The context is that researchers have determined that parents show gender preferences for training girls to be more emotionally in tune with other people than boys.

The study, published Wednesday in The British Journal of Developmental Psychology, analyzed conversations between 65 Spanish parents and their four- and six-year-old children. “Our study suggests that parent-child conversations are gendered, with mothers talking more expressively to their daughters than their sons,” lead author Dr. Harriet Tenenbaum, of the University of Surrey in the U.K., notes in a press release. “This inevitably leads to girls growing up more attuned to their emotions than boys.”

The researchers also found that fathers use fewer emotional words than mothers, which, they say, “unconsciously reinforce[es] gender stereotypes to their children,” and accounts for why men are generally less emotionally intelligent than women.

I would add here that cultural stereotypical roles are very pronounced in Spain. I have studied Spanish culture extensively and been to Spain myself, and the stereotyping roles of gender expression are definitely more pronounced in Spain than in some areas of the US. In short, part of Spanish cultural expression pushes boys into machismo roles and girls into so-called nurturing roles. I found it excessively frustrating, but then cultural forces are a tide unto themselves.

The prescription is just as baffling as the pronouncement that men are less emotionally intelligent than women: to try to ask boys how they feel more.

Still, Newman thinks this imbalance is shifting. “As more women are working, and more men are in care-taking roles, there’s going to be a greater balance in the language,” she says. As the language evens out, so too, says Newman, will our kids’ emotional competency.

But until then, parents should focus on helping their sons express feelings. “If your son wins a game, for example, instead of saying ‘great job,’ say ‘how did this make you feel?’ Mothers should probe their sons to pull out their emotions,” she says. “Parents, particularly of boys, don’t always discuss it when a relative is ill or a grandparent dies, but those are good opportunities to get emotional words and feelings into a son’s life.”

Wait, I thought were talking about reading emotions of others, not how the boys feel all the time. And why is just the mother asking this? Because moms are working more somehow the men are going to be more nurturing? For real? We are getting back to working moms and dads having to be more emotional? Most men are emotional idiots until their wife leaves to go to work? Strange, but according to this article, apparently true.

Here you go, the simpleton advice for the day (keep in mind that boys can’t be caring until prompted about how they feel):

Look out for situations in which you can ask questions about emotions, suggests Newman. Try simple ones: Are you sad or happy? How do you feel? “That will bring out the caring boys in them,” she says.

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