Gender, Emotion, and the Family

By Leslie Brody | Go to book overview

7
Transactional Relationships
within Families

A little boy baby and a little girl baby act differently That's what causes you to bring them up in certain ways.

—Sally, age 42

Parents are driven by their kids, who are driven by their environments. You try to treat sons and daughters equally, but you don't. They're definitely different.

—Mark, age 42

In this chapter, I begin to unravel the intertwined family threads that contribute to the development of gender differences in emotional expression. One of these threads weaves together infants' temperament with the differential socialization of emotion for the two sexes. I will argue that during the first several years of life, there are subtle differences in girls' and boys' temperamentally related behaviors that evoke divergent reactions from parents. In turn, this creates different trajectories for the development of emotional expressiveness in girls and boys.

The process by which children with different characteristics and needs elicit different reactions from their parents is known as a reactive or an evocative effect (Scarr and McCartney 1983). I will review evidence that infant girls are more verbal, more sociable, less active, less easily aroused in response to stimulation, and more able to regulate their arousal than are their male counterparts. Parents may express different emotions toward their sons and daughters, such as warmth or anger, because of these early differences. 1

How parents respond to their children leads to a further divergence in their sons' and daughters' behaviors and in the emotions associated with

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