A mother's influence only works to strengthen a boy's gender development.

Gender Development of Boys Without Their Mothers

by Angeliki Coconi

There are thousands of little boys all over the country growing up motherless. This unusual family situation arises through either divorce (on the rare occasion that the father gains full custody), or death. Tragically, many mothers die at a young age, leaving father and child to adapt to a completely new arrangement. Most of you should be aware of the significance of a mother figure in any boy’s upbringing. Naturally, this unfortunate absence may leave room for countless problems, including negative influences on gender development.

1. A Mother's Importance

The mother is usually the first woman that a little boy loves and wholly cares about. Instantly this links a mother’s absence to possible problems with relating later on in life. Potentially, the lack of a mother figure could lead to a string of failed relationships and a higher chance of the child ending up alone. In his article on a world without mothers, Ph.D and Child Psychologist Kenneth Condrell says that much like a steady girlfriend or a wife, the mother acts as the boy’s companion and his encouragement until he is old enough to move on. As far as gender goes, boys who share a strong relationship with their mothers usually end up softer and more compassionate with the women in their lives, but never less manly.

2. Growing up Motherless

When a boy grows up without a mother, he often lacks the female influence which becomes essential later on in life. Mothers rarely emasculate their sons; they simply aid them in gaining a security around women, the masculine quality of looking after and taking care of the women in their lives. For the same reason, boys without mothers rarely end up more masculine, just less able to relate to the opposite sex. As you can imagine, this could end up as quite the problem, resulting in higher levels of aggression and less ability to confidently enter social situations.

3. The Father's Role

While a motherless child will always find his situation tougher than normal, the father can play a big part in making the single father experience a lot easier. One of the most important things that a motherless household lacks is affection. A mother’s love helps any boy build up his confidence and become more able to explore other situations and connect with other people. For this reason, it’s important that a single father provides his son with loving physical contact, as well as the necessary “I love you” and “I’m here for you.” This affection, though more common from the mother, does not have a feminizing effect on the boy. It simply raises his self-esteem.

4. Ways to Keep a Mother's Presence in the Household

The father should avoid cutting off any of his former wife’s relatives, as often times, those related to the mother (aunts, cousins) may be able to provide the boy with some of that much-needed motherly love and influence. A mother should not be pushed aside, even if she isn’t around anymore. Single fathers should keep talking about the mother, constantly reminding the little boy where he came from. Drawing from the advice William Pollack, Ph.D gives in his book "Real Boys' Voices," the emotional support, safety and confidence to explore the world that a boy's mother provides all have little to do with gender development--just healthy development. Boys are encouraged to explore the opposite sex, rather than hide from the opposite sex.

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