Mummy’s Boys, Daddy’s Girls and Teenage Mental Health

Mummy’s boys may be the butt of jokes and subject to name-calling, but they actually fare better in roughing out the challenges of teenage life than those more detached from their mother’s apron strings.

New research by Marriage Foundation, the think tank set up to promote stable families, reveals that boys who are close to their mothers are less likely to suffer from poor mental health or unpopularity among their peers.

Boys deemed ‘extremely close’ to their mothers at age 14 are 41 per cent less likely to have mental health problems.

Daddy’s girls enjoy a similar lift in their self-esteem and confidence. Girls who are ‘extremely close’ to their fathers are 44 per cent less likely to suffer emotional problems or have trouble with their peers.

But boys and girls display significant differences in how they judge the security of their family life. While boys are happier when their parents are married, girls are more reassured by their parents demonstrating a high-quality relationship.

The analysis, which uses Millennium Cohort Study data from 11,000 mothers, found that overall the biggest factor affecting teenage mental health was family breakdown.

Harry Benson, research director of Marriage Foundation, who co-authored the study with Steve McKay from the University of Lincoln, commented:

“Our analysis shows once again that family breakdown remains the number one driver of teenage mental health problems.

“Our really interesting new finding is that boys and girls are especially influenced by their relationship with the opposite sex parent. Boys who are close to their mum tend to have better mental health, as do girls who are close to their dad.

“The fact that these links only apply to one parent and not both suggests that it’s the closeness with parents that affects the child’s mental health and not the other way around.

“In addition, boys are affected by whether their parents are married and happy whereas girls are more affected by whether their parents have avoided physical force, poor quality relationship, or low income.

“So boys seem to be looking for signs of clarity whereas girls are looking for anything that might make relationships difficult. We think this is the first study to connect how the relationships that children experience at home are setting them up for their own future relationships as adults.

Sir Paul Coleridge, chairman of Marriage Foundation commented: “Teenage mental health problems are rightly near the top of the public concern agenda across the political spectrum. They invariably cast long shadows over the life chances of adolescents well into adulthood and sometimes for life.

“Our earlier research demonstrated that family breakdown are their chief driver and this latest research reinforces it.

“Mummy’s boys” and “daddy’s girls” have been known about for generations as something of a stereotypical joke. But it seems that once again research supports anecdotal experience. Girls and boys, as they develop, do indeed have differing emotional needs and expectations and do best when these needs are satisfied. A strong relationship with the parent of the opposite sex boosts self-esteem and peer group relationship skills both of which support sound mental health.

“Obviously in families that remain together, not only is the trauma of family break-up averted, but also children have a far better chance of maintaining appropriately strong relationship with both parents. And without the huge disadvantage of having to split their time between the two.

“Marriage remains the gold standard of family structure. Of parents who remain together until their child reaches 15 years old, 93 per cent are married. All parents want to do their best for their children but maintaining and nurturing their own stable relationship is, in the end, the best way to do that.”

Downloads

Here you can download the Research Briefing Paper as a PDF and the Press Release where it is available.

Media Links

Mummy’s Boy’s less likely to have mental health issues as a teenager

Daily Mail, August 6, 2018

By Daniel Martin: Mummy’s boys are ‘less likely to have mental health issues’, study finds

The Sun, August 6, 2018

By Tom Newton Dunn: Mummy’s Boy’s Shocker: Mollycoddled kids end up as the hardiest

The Sun, August 6, 2018

By Tom Newton Dunn: Boys deemed ‘extremely close’ to their mothers are able to ‘tough out trouble far better than other teens’

The Daily Telegraph, August 6, 2018

Being a ‘mummy’s boy’ is better for mental health

The Daily Mirror, August 6, 2018

Daddy’s girls have better mind health

Family breakdown costs £50bn a year

When couples split up, families move from one to two households. Poverty is a common outcome that affects children. Six out of ten lone parents are supported by the state compared to one out of ten couple parents. That’s where most of the £50bn is spent.

UK Among highest family breakdown in Europe

Five years ago, the UK had the highest rate of family breakdown in Europe. We’re not doing as badly today, but only because of big falls in divorce rates. Alas there’s no sign of a similar improvement among cohabitees

Lower Divorce Rates – Higher Lone Parents

Divorce rates have plummeted over the past 3 decades, but the number of lone parents has doubled in the same period. Why?… Because unmarried parents make up only one in five cohabiting parents but are responsible for one half of all family breakdown.

Stability is found in Marriage

Whereas stability is the norm if parents are married (75% stay together), it is the exception if they are not (30% stay together). As a result, among parents of teens who are still together as a couple, nine out of ten are married

Single Most Important Factor

The single most important factor in a child’s healthy development is the stable relationship of the parents. Our groundbreaking research shows that family breakdown is the #1 predictor of teenage mental health problems.

© Copyright Marriage Foundation. All rights reserved.

Tweet
Share
Share