Study: Girls talk through problems, boys bottle it up

A problem shared is a problem halved for girls, but it seems men do not see the point of sharing their feelings or airing their woes

Men don’t like discussing their problems, which can be infuriating for their constantly chatty wives and girlfriends, but it seems the gender difference in dealing with dilemmas starts in childhood.

According to research, girls believe that talking endlessly about their problems will make them feel better and help them make sense of their woes, but boys think talking is a waste of time. This could explain the stand-offs in later relationships.

‘For years, popular psychologists have insisted that boys and men would like to talk about their problems but are held back by fears of embarrassment or appearing weak,’ says Dr Amanda Rose, from the University of Missouri.

However, the study, involving around 2,000 children and teenagers, found that it wasn’t angst or distress that stopped boys discussing their problems, but rather the belief that talking wouldn’t solve anything.

‘Women may really push their partners to share pent-up worries and concerns because they hold expectations that talking makes people feel better,’ says Dr Rose. ‘But their partners may just not be interested and expect that other coping mechanisms will make them feel better.’

The research suggests men are more likely to think talking about problems will make the problems feel bigger, but in a previous study Dr Rose showed that constant rehashing of problems made girls, not boys, more prone to anxiety and depression.

‘This is especially true for problems that girls can’t control, such as whether a particular girl likes them, or whether they get invited to a party that all the popular kids are attending,’ she says.

The study, published in the Journal of Child Development says parents could learn from the findings and encourage boys to realise that sometimes it helps to talk, while reminding girls not to dwell excessively on their problems.

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