Boys don't cry, as The Cure have assured us, except of course that they do. Men cry, too -- usually at the end of "Field of Dreams." But is it true that men cry less than women?
That's the received wisdom in our culture, but science and statistics reveal a more complex situation, as Jules Suzdaltsev explains in today's DNews dispatch.
First off, it's definitely not true that little boys cry less often than little girls. In fact, studies show that up until about age 5, boys express their feelings more often than girls. A 1999 study by Harvard Medical School found that 6-month-old infant boys were far more likely than girls to fuss and gesture to be picked up. They also tended to, yes, cry more than girls.
As they grow older, societal models and norms start to have an effect on young boys and teens. Research out of New York University suggests that adolescent boys form friendships as deep and meaningful as adolescent girls, but by age 16 they begin to distance themselves emotionally from other men.
RELATED: Why Does Music Make Us Cry?
This is also the age at which boys start falling behind in schools, according to sociologists. Boys who strive for good grades are often mocked by peers, although the numbers suggest that boys who pursue sensitive and "un-masculine" activities like art and music retain those good grades. Age 16 is also the age when male suicide rates begin to rise, and psychologists believe the correlation with emotional repression is significant.
As for grown-ups, one intriguing study by the psychology research institute Mindlab sheds some light on the issue. Psychologists gathered groups of mothers and fathers and showed them a series of videos designed to elicit an emotional response. Certain scenarios triggered men more deeply than women. For instance, a scene of a soldier dad reuniting with his daughter spurred a physiological response from the dads that registered twice as intense as the response from the moms.
There may be a bit of biology involved, too. The American Psychological Association has found that testosterone may inhibit the crying reflex. Meanwhile, prolactin -- which is found in higher amounts in women -- may promote crying.
While there are no hard numbers on the issue, it's commonly accepted that many men cry when their favorite baseball team fails to win the World Series, despite many excellent opportunities. Clearly, more research is needed.
-- Glenn McDonald
Psychology Today: Boys Who Cry Might Have It All Figured Out
New York Times: Teaching Men To Be Emotionally Honest
Mindlab: Research Shows Men Are More Emotional Than Women