Child's Gender Development Through Parental Image

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Lombardi (2012) stated that “A mom who nurtures a deep emotional bond with her son will prevent the child from growing up to be a strong, independent man, by refusing to cut strings, she is on track to create the archetypal, effeminate, maladjusted ‘mama’s boy”. In contrast to the previous statement, Lombardi also argued that when a child is more sensitive and emotionally intelligent, the mother does not conform to the “mama’s boy” taboo.

As stated by Lombardi (2012), when a mother stays too close with her son, she will constraint the child to develop emotional intelligence and “masculinity” or the habits or traits that society considers to be appropriate for a man. This does not mean that mothers should not stay in contact with their children, but it is about helping them develop independence from parents, and reach their full potential at a young age.

According to Pollack (1998) a Psychology professor at Harvard, “Contrary to stereotype, boys who can express a broader range of emotions will not become wimps, forever clinging to their mommies, but instead an independent guy who will make strong, empathetic spouses and partners.” In his book “Real Boys” Pollack described the boy code as the requirement that boys should be stoic and independent, macho and athletic, powerful and dominant, and phobic of anything close to feminine. However, the negative side of this is that some boys hide behind the “mask of masculinity” not having their emotions validated, thus they may feel lonely and may result in depression. Pollack says that it is not unusual for some teenage boys and adults to exhibit mood swings and bouts of anger and violence as a reaction to the emotions they feel but are forced to repress. Similarly, some mothers fear that women’s femininity may attribute to their son’s masculine development so they refrain from showering their son's excessive emotion and affection. On the other side, being a mama’s boy is not just purely about a spoiled son, the love of a mother does make boys stronger, emotionally and psychologically. Far from making boys dependent, a loving mother can create and provides a boy with the courage to explore the outside world.

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Pollack (1998), classified the positive and negative effects of being a mama’s boy. What is good about being a mama’s boy is that the mother is helping her son reach his full potential by giving and providing him needs suitable for his age, but on the contrary, providing a child all the need including his wants may result in excessive dependency on the mother and may cause implications to the child in the future.

Discussion of Theories

According to Bowlby (1958) in the Attachment theory, attachment is all about primary caregivers –mothers who are available and responsive to a child’s need allows them to develop a sense of security, knowing their mother is dependable which then creates a secure base for the child to explore the world. It also explained the importance of attachment in regards to personal development and claimed that the ability of an individual to form an emotional and physical attachment to another person gives a sense of security and stability necessary in taking risks, growth, and developing of a person. The attachment behavior of the mother towards her son influences the subsequent development of a child.

In this case, mothers who attend to their child's needs are forms of attachment that were established during infancy. In this case, if the mother is giving her son excessive attention, it will cause the child to be too reliant on his mother, instead of being independent and how to stand with his own, having his mother's support in the background. In the same way, the child may be too afraid to take risks and could not make decisions for himself.

Freud (1899) in the Oedipus complex of his psychoanalytic theory, is a desire for sexual involvement with the parent of the opposite sex and a concomitant sense of rivalry with the parent of the same sex. It occurs during the Phallic stage of psychosexual development and involves a boy aged between 3 and 6, becoming unconsciously sexually attached to his mother, and hostile towards his father. This conflict arises because the child develops unconscious sexual and pleasurable desires for his mother, while envy and jealousy are aimed at the father. These feelings for the mother and rivalry toward the father lead to fantasies of getting rid of his father and taking his place with the mother.

As Freud stated in this concept, the child wants to be with his mother at all times. The child unconsciously develops an extreme dependency on his mother. The excessive mother-son relationship may restrict the father to have a close parental relationship with his son. Freud believed that though these feelings or desires are repressed or unconscious, they still have a significant influence on a child’s development. The child may also develop anger, and aggression towards his father that he might carry as he goes to the adolescent period. 

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