Opinion Brief

Are moms too mean to their daughters?

In a British web survey, 88 percent of mothers admit that they are more critical of their girls than of their boys. How real is this problem?

In a finding that could spice up mother-daughter talks everywhere, British parenting website Netmums says moms are twice as likely to be critical of their daughters than of their sons. Eighty-eight percent of the more than 2,500 moms who took a Netmums survey said they treat boys and girls differently, even though they realize that's "wrong." The survey also suggests that women are more likely to describe their sons as "playful" and "funny," and their daughters as "argumentative" and "serious." Do moms need to show their girls a little more love?

Yes, being meaner to girls can scar them: It's not clear whether this survey could withstand scientific scrutiny, says Anna North at Jezebel, but treating children differently does have ramifications. Netmums theorizes that such demanding moms "may be why women are 'more self-critical' in adulthood," but I think this sort of treatment "makes everyone more critical of us, whether we're speaking in public or reporting an assault." Ask yourself: Do you punish girls for behavior you excuse in boys?
"Are moms tougher on their daughters?"

Don't be so quick to judge moms: Gender is a huge part of our identity, so mothers and daughters — like fathers and sons — have a "special bond," says Terri Apter at The Guardian. It is perfectly normal to be "more openly and directly critical" of the people closest to us. And there is no reason to dismiss all criticism between mother and daughter as destructive: It "often fosters a daughter's intellectual and emotional growth."
"Don't blame it all on Mum"

This survey only tells part of the story: The Netmums participants were reporting on their own behavior, says Kate Wharmby Seldman at Opposing Views, and we all "can be extra hard on ourselves when we believe we've behaved wrongly." The implication is that moms are less evenhanded than dads, teachers, and grandparents, but Netmums did not ask others whether they treat boys and girls differently. A more comprehensive study might provide "a different, slightly less bleak picture."
"British study indicates moms more critical of daughters than sons"

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