Do Boys and Girls Express Their Emotions Differently?

According to a recent study led by Tara M. Chaplin of the Department of Psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine, boys and girls have very different emotional tendencies, but these fluctuate depending on age and context. In her study, Chaplin reviewed data from over 21,000 participants from over 160 separate studies focusing on emotional expression from birth to adolescence. Chaplin looked at internalizing and externalizing emotions as well as positive and negative expressions. The study revealed some interesting and novel results. Chaplin said, “Our findings suggest that there are small but significant gender differences in emotion expressions, with larger gender differences emerging at certain ages and in certain contexts.” She found that in infancy, the boys and girls exhibited similar emotional displays. However, as the children aged, significant differences emerged.

Specifically, Chaplin found that the girls internalized their emotions more than the boys, but they also displayed more positive emotions. For instance, the girls had higher rates of anxiety and sadness than the boys, but outwardly expressed more cheerfulness and joy. The boys, on the other hand, were more likely to exhibit anger and aggression than the girls. But these variances were only evident when the children were in the presence of strangers. When they were with their parents, the children expressed a wide range of emotions, making the gender differences virtually non-existent. Chaplin believes that children may feel more comfortable with parents and may feel free to express all of their emotions. In social settings, children may feel the need to conform and therefore may not freely express their true emotions, leading to internalizing behaviors.

Although these emotional differences were very noticeable during the toddler and elementary school ages, they were less apparent as the children matured. For instance, externalizing behaviors diminished in the boys and increased in the girls, almost to the point of being equal. Two other findings revealed concerning patterns. The adolescent girls had higher levels of shame than the boys. Because shame and guilt have been shown to be a factor in several psychological problems, including depression, self-harm, and disordered eating, this should be a key point of focus for educators and clinicians working with teen girls. Also, boys felt more joy than girls when they were provided the opportunity to taunt or tease another individual. This is disturbing too because this could increase the risk for these boys to engage in bullying and aggressive behavior. Because the trajectory of emotional expression changes as children mature, and because it is heavily influenced by family environment, social factors, and other external conditions, children will display a wide range of emotions as they develop. However, Chaplin believes it is also important to be able to identify which expressions are normal and which are signs of concern.

Chaplin, T. M., and Aldao, A. (2012). Gender differences in emotion expression in children: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0030737

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  • Trevis

    December 26th, 2012 at 6:33 PM

    Both boys and girls express emotions similarly in infancy.That shows both are on the same page naturally. But as they grow, they look around and see that men and women are different when expressing. They pick this up spontaneously and effortlessly. I think it is only the conditioning that leads to a difference in the way boys and girls express their emotions.

    Okay, it is not something that can be totally controlled but it is always a good thing if parents can step in and say that bullying or displaying anger is not a good thing. Some things can be cultivated and parents have a big role to play.

  • Boop

    December 14th, 2017 at 8:11 AM

    Okay then, thanks, bye

  • denise

    December 26th, 2012 at 11:13 PM

    men do tend to exhibit aggression a bit more than women when they want to express themselves.also the way men and women cope with negative emotions is pretty I’m not too surprised to see this starts off when they’re younger.

  • Sadie

    December 27th, 2012 at 4:08 AM

    Oh come on, we all know that we express our emotions in a far different manner than guys do. Girls, well, we kind of wear our emotions on our sleevs far more than men do, and I think that this is apparent not only when we are children, but even as we mature into adults as well.

  • Mel

    December 27th, 2012 at 11:50 AM

    From my view, I think that we teach them how to respond.
    They probably all come from the womb with the same emotions and feelings, yet we show them through our actions and our words how we want little boys to respond to their emotions and how we expect little girls to deal with theirs.


    December 27th, 2012 at 12:24 PM

    Although its well known that the way we put across our emotions differently,why does this happen Is it a natural thing that happens to all or do we adapt to what we see in our childhood? Do we subtly understand gender roles and the means of coping with different emotions at a very young age?

  • hypnosis anxiety

    December 27th, 2012 at 2:57 PM

    Although emotions might differ as they grow older, they begin with very similar. I would say outside influences of how they are supposed to feel also impacts on how the emotions are felt.

  • Paulett

    December 28th, 2012 at 3:53 AM

    Just because they may process the feelings in a different way doesn’t mean that one or the other feels them any less. Now it could mean that later on due to internalizing those feelings and not feeling open to let them show that there are then some problems that could arise. I would really hate to think that I stifled my chaild’s emotional growth and well being by telling him that he had to act a certain way or feel a certain way. That’s when kids totally lose sight of themselves and do too much to try to please other people. I think that the best thing is to let them be who they are, encourage their development in a way that is positive and encourage them to be aware of their feelings and emotions and not feel the need to hide them.

  • huet

    December 28th, 2012 at 7:32 AM

    I find gender studies to be so interesting, especially since having boy/girl twins of my own. I can say that both of my kids followed these patterns. My daughter definitely felt shame in her teen years and I had no idea how to help her. Fortunately, none of those disorders developed that I’m aware of. And, my son also got in trouble at school for picking on other kids. Once we gave him some pretty serious consequences, he did not seem to get in trouble for it anymore.

  • Holcombe

    December 28th, 2012 at 7:35 AM

    It’s so funny how boys and girls are different right from the start. I think it is all a part of God’s plan for us. We need people of all kinds to balance us out, so I think it’s really neat that we often fall into gender stereotypes without even being aware of them. It is really important also to be able to look to these studies when trying to figure out whether what you are seeing in your own children is normal or not.

  • Clarke J

    December 28th, 2012 at 1:10 PM

    As long as I see my children handling their emotions in a way that is both safe and effective, then I really don’t care how they do it. I just don’t want them to ever feel like there is something going on that they can’t talk to me about or that we can’t come up with a solution for.

  • Heidi

    December 28th, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    whatever may be the gender of your child,whatever may be the child’s personal way of expressing himself/herself,parents need to be aware.They need to ensure that coping and expressing methods are healthy and that the child does not internalize.It can cause harm not just in the short term but also in the long run.

    Whether it is a son or daughter I’m sure parents love them all the same and they need to be aware to be able to help their child.

  • irvin

    December 28th, 2012 at 11:04 PM

    studies like this one have proved the difference in emotional capabilities and functioning of young men and these findings should be adopted by parents and schools alike.they could help in counseling and mentorship.also what can be helped by this is the way children are molded by parents.

  • Cason

    December 29th, 2012 at 4:08 AM

    I, too, find it disturbing that more boys than girls seemd to feel some kind of joy when harming another person. Of course, having these kinds of feelings could very easily lead one to getting into bullying behavior later on. But this doesn’t explain why some girls also begin to eventually engage in bullying and harmful behaviors as well. Do they begin to enjoy it at a later time? Or in girls does it trigger some other sort of emotion that we may not yet understand? All in all I think that this is a very serious element to this problem that needs to be examined thoroughly.

  • doug

    December 29th, 2012 at 2:13 PM

    the fact that both boys and girls have similarities in infancy and when strangers are not around just goes on to show that all of the differences are an enforcement of others’ expectations of us.naturally we are not different but adopt to our respective roles because we are expected is for the same reason that a boy crying is often ridiculed while it is okay for a girl to do the same!

  • lena s

    December 30th, 2012 at 4:38 AM

    Why is this such a big deal? I have boys and girls, and when they were young it was all about the basics- the same things upset them and they pretty much dealt with that in the same way.

    But as they got older, the differences did start to show. My boys were much more boisterous and verbal while the girls were just a lot more emotional. But their dad and I gave all of them room to be who they needed to be, and it’s fine. No big deal. Different, yes. But no one way better than the next.

  • brandy

    December 30th, 2012 at 7:22 AM

    girls n boys do express differently.its for d same reason that d two groups r better at some things than the other..they have their specialities n that could b because of d influence of d way process things n express.

  • sree

    August 7th, 2014 at 9:20 AM

    men dont want to express or show his emotions in front of public

  • Tania

    December 30th, 2012 at 3:41 PM

    Although some of these things come to us due to being a boy or a girl,I think its not impossible to overcome them.Like girls internalizing is a major problem for many.Yet there are those of us that have overcome this and are able to express ourselves better when in a difficult situation.Yes boys may be better at it at base points but these skills can be developed and challenges overcome.

    That is the reason we see people of all kinds,both men and women.Nobody sticks perfectly to what they were naturally,all of us undergo change – some a bit less and some of us a little more.

  • adrienne

    December 31st, 2012 at 5:53 AM

    well I know that I express my feelings WAY different than my brothers ever did and from the way my husband does. so I am gonna go out on a limb and say yes

  • Cynthia

    December 31st, 2012 at 1:26 PM

    Same reason why there is so much difference in the way two partners process and express the same things.A reason for rift maybe but with understanding and knowledge this can be overcome.In fact it is imperative to make youngsters aware that the opposite sex would express their emotions differently.That would help in a lot of mutual understanding.

  • nigel

    December 31st, 2012 at 10:28 PM

    never is this difference more visible than when the person is under stress or is facing a problem..I enjoy observing people and although it can be hard to gauge children’s emotions, the same difference can be seen in adults too.whether this is nature or norms that we confide to,the difference exists and there’s no denying that!

  • Melody

    January 2nd, 2013 at 3:54 AM

    “However, Chaplin believes it is also important to be able to identify which expressions are normal and which are signs of concern.” Well, yeah. If we could all just do that one thing, wouldn’t life be so much easier?

  • IAN

    January 2nd, 2013 at 2:24 PM

    I would say – YES. Boys n girls do exhibit their emotions differently. And this is influenced a lot by peers and parents. In growing up years we see the ones around us and behave like that. At least many of us tend to. So this whole thing of how a boy should exhibit his emotions and how a girl should all come into play and the status quo is maintained.

  • Chingku c

    November 16th, 2016 at 10:50 PM

    Boys wants,everyone love to his girlfriend.

  • lynn

    March 23rd, 2017 at 6:10 PM

    Oh yes, the more we understand how very different boys and girls are treated from infancy, the more readily we can see how that differential treatment is greatly affecting their emotions. The more aggressive treatment boys are given by parents, teachers, peers, others in society along with much less support for fear of coddling for various needs creates more fear, anxiety, preparation for defense, and more resolution of self-direction/fear of various forms of interaction and expression. As girls we are treated much better and enjoy more hope and care from society. Since we as girls are given by differential treatment, much more continual, positive – mental, social/emotional support, verbal interaction and care from an early age onward, this creates quite the opposite outcome for girls when compared with boys. We enjoy much more care and support from society from infancy through adulthood and receive love and honor simply for being girls. This creates all of the good things. We enjoy lower average stress for more ease of learning. We enjoy much more freedom of expression from much protection that makes us look more unstable at times. We enjoy much more positive, trust/communication from parents, teachers, peers, and more support for perceived weaknesses. We are reaping a bonanza in the information age. The lower the socioeconomic bracket the much more amplified the differential treatment from infancy and more differentiated over time through adulthood.

  • sagar jha

    May 5th, 2017 at 2:43 PM

    The emotional difference between both sex is only because of different gender. Actually emotions are same of both gender but their are some differences in expressing the emotions by girls and by the boys and they learned that by watching author girls and boys of our society ..and some more regions are their different physic and different rules for girl and boys. Both gender have different problems, different ways of living and they both faces different situations in their lives so these things also influences their emotions.

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