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Daughters: Friends and Social Relationships

Daughters: Friends and Social Relationships

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There seem to be fundamental gender differences between the way girls and boys perceive themselves and relate to the world around them. Compared with boys, girls are far more likely to have their personal identities tied to their friendships, which are primarily with other girls. Their sense of self is orga­nized around being able to make and maintain these relationships.

Much more than boys, girls appreciate and seem to need connections to other people. Because of this tendency, girls generally judge themselves as successful when they are caring and responsible. Girls also tend to talk about and assess their friendships much more than boys do.
In our culture, girls are raised to relate in so-called face-to-face intimacy, and thus are inclined to have conversationally based interactions with their girl­friends. These conversations are intended to create and maintain relation­ships. Yes, boys talk to one another, but their interactions tend to be “side-by-side intimacy,” organized around an activity (playing with a tractor or a video game) or similar interest.
More than boys, girls are likely to have a “best friend” or two, although those special friends may change frequently. They will share their secrets with and write confidential notes to their best friend. Girls often hold hands, give hugs to each other, and arrange social occasions just to be together, not be­cause a particular activity is planned.
Your eleven- or twelve-year-old daughter may discuss her relationships at the dinner table, while boys are less likely to talk in this way. Girls are also more inclined to become emotionally distressed when a friendship breaks up or when they move away from their best friend.
The natural tendency toward gender-segregated friendships in the middle years has an unfortunate consequence. It limits the opportunities for girls and boys to get to know and appreciate one another before the sexual attraction of puberty places them together. Ideally, girls need boys as friends (and vice versa) if they are to have good relationships as teenagers and good marriages as adults. You should encourage and provide opportunities for your school-age daughter to play with boys.
However, you are likely to meet with some re­sistance. Girls of this age simply prefer to play with girls, and boys with boys.
As girls move through their middle years and approach adolescence, they tend to be reluctant to take risks in relationships for fear of displeasing others. They may refrain from asserting themselves and taking credit for their ac­complishments. They may avoid criticizing or disagreeing with others, or to make their likes, wants, and needs known. They may have trouble saying no to someone with whom they have an important relationship. When girls have conflicts, they often avoid direct confrontation, and rather retaliate by at­tempting to damage the other girl’s friendships or social status.
School-age girls have some advantages over the boys in the classroom. In gen­eral, girls seem able to pay attention longer than boys. Verbal skills also tend to mature earlier in girls.
Traditionally, girls perform better in English and as well or better than boys in mathematics through about the fifth and sixth grades. But on the brink of adolescence, and during the teenage years, the top-performing girls often be­gin doing less well in math than they once did. By the time your middle-years daughter reaches high school, the top performing math students in her class will disproportionately be boys.
Girls mature emotionally earlier than boys. In the middle years, they find it easy to express their emotions verbally, and their self-esteem tends to be strong and resilient. They may be full of themselves—confident, adventurous, secure, and certain of their ability to do valuable things in the world. From their youthful point of view, anything is possible.
Most parents recognize that it’s just as important for girls to be physically ac­tive and fit as boys. Fortunately, today’s school-age girls have more chances to participate in organized sports—from softball to soccer to gymnastics—than their mothers and grandmothers ever did.

Haz clic para leerlo en español:Hijas: Amigos y relaciones sociales
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