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Why are baby boys more vulnerable when facing stress?

baby boy and baby girl staring at the camera

Key points:
1. Baby boys’ brain development is more vulnerable and slower than girls’.
2. Early experiences significantly affect baby boys, impacting stress regulation and resilience.
3. Unresponsive care and stressful environments negatively affect self-control and socialization in baby boys.
4. Treating all babies with sensitivity and affection is crucial for their healthy socioemotional development.

As we now know, babies’ brains are highly vulnerable especially during the first months of life.

Opposite as we once thought, every move we make as parents has an impact either positive or negative on our children. For so long we have misunderstood how babies develop, and that explains why we have treated baby boys differently. Cultures and religions have influenced too on how we educate our children. We have developed ideas on how tough we should be with our children, and we have been tougher with baby boys, since we believe that, if we are too caring or responsive, we may spoil them. However, the truth is that all babies need responsive care and affection to grow physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy.

Dr. Allan N. Schore, a clinician-scientist at UCLA who specializes in attachment and brain development, has investigated the developmental neurobiology and neuroendocrinology of baby boys. Schore (2017) explains why baby boys are more vulnerable than girls when facing stressful environments or unresponsive care. According to Schore (2017), boys brains mature slower in almost every area including social, physical, and linguistic areas. Moreover, in boys brains the brain circuitries that regulate stress mature slower and have less built-in mechanisms to foster resiliency against stress. These are some of the reasons why experiences that occur early in life influence baby boys more than girls.


Furthermore, studies have shown that baby boys are more vulnerable to unresponsive care, prenatal stress, and separation from their mother right after being born. These environmentally stressful situations negatively impact the areas of the brain that are related to self-control and socialization. Also, baby boys show a higher reaction to negative stimuli and present higher cortisol levels when they are born. In addition, Schore mentions about another study that shows that baby girls can regulate their affective states more than boys do. This means that baby boys can be greatly affected by a stressful environment and unresponsive care (less than optimal maternal responsiveness or sensitivity).

We can conclude that as boys’ brain development mature slower, they are much more vulnerable than girls to developmental disorders like autism and ADHD. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t worry about baby girls, as all babies need caring and responsive parenting. But rather, it’s a call to treat all babies with sensitivity and affection, as these may greatly impact and promote a healthy socioemotional development.

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