The relationship between dads and daughters is a truly special one and one researcher decided to investigate this powerful bond. Jennifer Mascaro wanted to carry out research to see if dads treat their daughters and sons differently.

 

She recorded interactions between 52 dads and their children aged one to two years old to observe how the dads interacted with their offspring.

 

Mascaro and her fellow researchers at Emory University and the University of Arizona then analysed the conversations and interactions to see if there were any patterns based on the gender of the child.

 

She found there were some very specific differences.

 

Dads of boys tended to play more rough and tumble games with their sons. They also tended to use achievement-based language such as “win”, “top” and “proud.”

 

 

Dads of daughters, on the other hand, tended to use more emotive language and words, particularly related to sadness and more analytical words such as “all”, “below” and “much.”

 

Mascaro explained that this study allowed researchers to examine factors which were difficult to examine through a questionnaire or focus group.

 

"Historically, this is a thorny thing to study," she explained in an interview. "It isn't something that's very amenable to asking people, so we've never really had a good handle on how the gender of a child influences the behaviour of a parent."

 

Although this was a quite small study and was limited to dads who lived with their partner, the age of the children involved was a key factor in examining father-child relationships.

 

It’s believed at approximately age one when many children finish breastfeeding and begin walking, their relationship with their father flourishes.

 

 

The study which has been published in the journal Behavioural Neuroscience was conducted as part of a wider study examining paternal relationships.

 

A second experiment involved the same group of dads being shown photographs of their child with sad, happy and neutral expressions while their brain activity was monitored.

 

Prior to conducting the study, Mascaro predicted that because dads talk more about emotions and feelings to their daughters, they would be more responsive to photos of their daughters.

 

This was proven correct as the dads showed greater neural responses in the regions for reward and processing emotions when the men were shown the happy pictures.

 

Mascaro said the finding of the study should not be viewed in a negative light. “Findings like this shouldn't necessarily be taken as ill-intent or negative on the part of the fathers," she explained. "It really could indicate fathers trying to do the best they can to prepare their children for the world."

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