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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 July, 2004, 23:26 GMT 00:26 UK
Mollycoddled men 'more successful'
Image of a mother and her baby
Baby boys should be treated gently, says Dr Sebastian Kraemer
Men treated with kid gloves as young babies are more likely to succeed in work and relationships, according to a UK psychiatrist.

Baby boys who are taught to be tough are less confident and more aggressive, says Dr Sebastian Kraemer from London's Whittington Hospital.

He told doctors at the Royal College of Psychiatrists' annual conference in Harrogate boys were naturally fragile.

Parents should treat boys as gently as girls to compensate for this, he said.

In his lecture, The Fragile Male, Dr Kraemer said if boys were treated more like girls as young babies they would develop better social skills.

If you want a real man treat your baby boy as weak not as strong
Dr Sebastian Kraemer, child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Whittington Hospital

He said newborn baby boys lagged behind baby girls in most respects.

Boys were more likely to experience reading difficulties and have autism, Asperger's syndrome and disruptive behaviour.

They got poorer examination grades, were more vulnerable to depression and were more likely to commit crimes than girls, he said.

"If parents know that boys are a bit behind in their development and generally weaker in every way except muscle then they will do a better job than they are doing now," he said.

"If you want a real man treat your baby boy as weak not as strong, then he will become strong."

Dr Kraemer said, by looking at research, the critical period appeared to be in the first month of life when the brain is still developing.

This is when parents should pay extra care, he said.

"It means looking after your baby like a fragile creature not a little lump of muscle.

Tough love

"If boys are treated in a tough slugs and snails way they are more likely to become football hooligans than generous, strong, courageous men."

He said mollycoddling hardwired self-confidence that was not based on bluster, but was genuine and did not need to be constantly asserted.

Dr Nick Barlow, consultant paediatric psychologist at Leicester Royal Infirmary, said: "We know that boys who are brought up to be macho and to overcome anything that threatens them are more likely to get into trouble in adolescence and adulthood."

He said this was because men were more competitive and single-minded, and less likely to appreciate the other side of arguments.

"They go straight forward for doing what they believe is right in their own eyes and they can't be seen to back down.

"That is a dangerous, anti-social and not very understanding view of how to get your own way," he said.

"The attitudes of the parents when the child is born are extremely important on how the child is going to integrate during school years and later on."

Girls beat boys in infant classes
24 Jun 04  |  Education
'Too much too young for my son'
19 May 04  |  Education
How nature protects fragile men
27 Mar 03  |  Health

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