When I tell someone about this blog for the first time, they usually nod, think about it for a minute, then say something like: “But at some point you have to ask yourself if emotionally, boys and girls are just wired differently, right?” My answer to that question is: absolutely.
In fact, I always assumed boys and girls were wired differently. I have three younger sisters and no brothers. My dad never cried. My mom cried a lot. The guys I dated and hung out with growing up almost never cried. My girlfriends cried often. My life experience seemed to validate the assumption that girls feel more emotions than boys do…until I had four boys of my own.
The house of boys I’m raising is just as emotional as the house of girls I was raised in. My sons are every bit as emotionally aware and expressive as my sisters were. If we could collect and measure the amount of tears shed in each home, I’m sure they would be nearly identical. Research supports this observation. Up until age 12, there is no difference between the amount of tears boys shed and the amount of tears girls shed (Fey).
After age 12, the research is less clear. It is possible that as boys age, increased testosterone levels inhibit how much they cry (Fleming). However, studies have shown circumstances influence hormonal production. When men have children and participate in care giving, for example, their testosterone production decreases markedly (Gettler). Also, cultural research shows that in countries with less freedom of expression, there was little difference between how much women cry and how much men cry. Countries with greater freedom of expression measured larger differences between how much men cry and how much women cry, again indicating that crying has more to do with social differences in expressive expectations than in actual distress (Hemert).
Crying is a complex topic influenced by both social and biological factors, but there is no doubt young boys feel and cry as much as young girls do. It’s possible that grown men naturally cry less often than grown women due to their testosterone levels; but if crying was socially acceptable for men, then they would probably cry a lot more.