As a woman who developed clinical anxiety in adolescence, I have often wondered why, coming from an extremely nurturing home, this condition besets me. While it is known that women in general are saddled with anxiety disorders nearly twice as frequently as men, there are fewer studies that report on the actual development of the symptoms. But Slate recently dove into a few studies on the subject.
According to UCLA anxiety expert Michelle Craske, it’s boys who show greater emotional neediness in the earliest stages of infancy. Girls are slightly more prone to negative feelings than boys by age 2, also the time experts confirm when kids begin to learn gender roles. A study from the Journal of the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry found that up until age 11, boys and girls are equally at risk for developing an anxiety disorder, but by age 15, girls are six times more likely to have one. So why the huge jump in this critical period from age 11-15?
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While chemical differences seem to play a role, Craske alleges that parents may be to blame, since moms and dads often manage girls’ anxiety differently than boys’. Her ‘skinned-knee effect’ theory explains that long-held cultural biases mean sons are expected to overcome painful predicaments with courage and fear, but daughters’ sensitivity is coddled and reinforced.
Craske hypothesizes that women learn fewer coping strategies from this critical phase, which leads them to being more proactive in seeking therapy later in life. Men constitute just 37 percent of therapy patients and are more prone, according to the research, to bury their anxiety into alcohol or drugs.
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What do you think? Do you think we are coddling our daughter too much, and ultimately making them anxious?