|Why Males Are More Violent|
Virtually all of the warriors across history have been male, from tribal to modern times. Similarly, males have perpetrated most of the interpersonal violent crimes: in the U.S., 90% of murderers and 82% of other violent criminals are male. Males even commit suicide four times as often as females.1 The difference in male violence is usually ascribed to inherited biology—mainly to adult males having 20 times as much testosterone as females.2 The problem with this theory is that boys actually have the same testosterone levels as girls until they are about eight years old, whereas beginning in about their fourth year of life boys begin acting more violent and domineering than girls, forming structured dominance hierarchies rather than the smaller, more sharing networks formed by girls.3 Indeed, some studies—such as a recent one in Canada measuring hitting, biting and kicking—show little difference in boys and girls violent behaviors until the boys’ testosterone increases after ten years of age.4 However, careful studies have shown “no evidence of an association between testosterone and aggression in teenage boys.”5 Indeed, some studies have concluded that “testosterone efficiency is more often associated with aggression than is testosterone excess. When some men have had their testosterone lowered artificially or by castration, their aggression actually increases.”6 Indeed, testosterone levels actually plummet under stressful conditions, such as military combat.7 Goldstein summarizes the findings on testosterone: “The relative unimportance of testosterone in causing aggression is seen from the fact that differences in testosterone levels between individuals do not predict subsequent differences in their aggressive behavior—nor do short-term fluctuations in a man’s testosterone level predict changes in his levels of aggression.”8 And Boyd simply concludes from his thorough study that there is “no relationship between testosterone levels and being of a violent disposition.”9
Nor do lower testosterone levels in adult women prevent them from voting for war leaders and favoring military solutions nearly as often as men—indeed, somewhat more women than men regarded the Soviet threat as requiring military response by the U.S.10 Although more men than women approved of the Gulf War, more women than men thought George Bush’s hyper-military policies in Iraq were a good way to protect the U.S. from terrorism, mainly because they were “Security Moms” who believed Bush would protect their children better.11 In America recently, there has been a gap of 36% separating married from single women, unmarried women having voted by a 25% margin for the Democratic candidate for President versus married women voting by a 11% margin for Bush.12 Even Nazi violence was backed by most German women, who “in fact voted for Hitler in even greater proportions than men.”13 Current studies of attitudes of boys and girls on whether they accept the necessity of war show almost no difference by sex.14 Still, men usually favor the use of military force more than women, and it is mainly boys who join the military and girls who praise them and cheer them on for being heroes who kill and die for their Motherland.15 Why the difference? And why the shared fantasy of boys killing and dying for a maternal symbol?
THE PSYCHOBIOLOGY OF BOYS’ EARLY ATTACHMENTS
The mother, of course, is the focal point of this widespread distancing and insecure attachment pattern. High levels of violence and of testosterone have been shown to be associated with poorer relationships with mothers, not fathers, since mothers are the primary caretakers in most families (even in America today, fathers spend only an average of eleven minutes a day with their children).22 It is not just genetics but more importantly maternal environment that Tronick and Weinberg blame when they see from their studies that “Infant boys are more emotionally reactive than girls. They display more positive as well as negative affect, focus more on the mother, and display more signals expressing escape and distress and demands for contact than do girls.”23 This is because from infancy boys are expected to “just grow up” and not need as much emotional care as girls—indeed, boys are regularly encouraged not to express any of their feelings, since this is seen as “weak” or “babyish” in boys.24 While mothers may sometimes dominate their little girls and expect them to share their emotional problems, they distance their boys by not making contact with them and expect them to “be a man.” This begins from birth: “Over the first three months of life, a baby girl’s skills in eye contact and mutual facial gazing will increase by over 400 percent, whereas facial gazing skills in a boy during this time will not increase at all.”25 Boys grow up with less attachment strengths because careful studies show that mothers look at their boys less, because both parents hit their boys two or three times as much as they do their girls, because boys are at much higher risk than girls for serious violence against them, and because boys are continuously told to be “tough,” not to be a “wimp” or a “weakling,” not to be “soft” or a “sissy.”26 As Tom Brown told his chum when he wanted him to appear more manly: “Don’t ever talk about home, or your mother and sisters…you’ll get bullied.”27 Real boys don’t admit they need their mothers. When William Pollack researched his book Real Boys’ Voices, he asked boys “Have you ever been called a ‘wuss,’ ‘wimp,’ or ‘fag’? ‘Oh, that,’ one boy said. ‘That happens every day. I thought it was just a part of being a boy!’” Another said, “Boys are just as sensitive as girls are, but we’re not allowed to show our feelings. We’re put in this narrow box and if we try to break out, we’re made fun of, or threatened.’”28 Pollack accurately shows boys are not more “aggressive”—they are just more often shamed if they show their feelings. He accurately says “bravado is a defense against shame…we too often mistake for ‘badness’ what is really covert sadness and frustration about having to fulfill an impossible test of self.”29 This intense sadness and rage at being abandoned is deeply unconscious, dissociated—what Garbarino terms “the emotional amnesia of lost boys.”30
The propensity of beating boys instead of understanding and caring for them is both cross-cultural and cross-historical. We are startled when we read how Aztecs routinely beat their boys bloody to make them good warriors and how Spartans often beat them to death in public “toughening” rituals. But when I spoke to an audience of psychotherapists in London recently and told them that “two-thirds of British mothers said they routinely hit their infants in the first year of their lives, about the same proportion as in the U.S., and that hardly anyone was never smacking their four-year-olds…and that hitting with implements was still used on 91% of boys and 59% of girls,” they found it hard to believe. Then, when I told them that a dozen European nations have now passed laws against hitting children for any reason, and that as a result in nations like Sweden only 6% of parents hit children—and with the additional result that approval of military ventures has also decreased dramatically—they promised me they would raise a protest meeting outside of Parliament and get a law against hitting children passed soon.31
Although historically mothers have played the main role in abusive families because they were expected to bring up their children virtually by themselves along with overwhelming other tasks, today in some nations some portion of fathers really play a major role in caring for their children and thereby produce far less violent and less sexist offspring. “When a boy is able from the earliest age to identify with his father, and when that identification includes loving, nurturing and feeling connected with others, he does not need to be contemptuous of women in order to solidify his identity as a man.”32 It is not that identification with a father is needed to be warm and empathic, as some say. In fact, both single mothers and single fathers have been studied and found “better in all areas” of emotional life.33 It is, rather, that when boys are raised with empathy, no matter what the sex of the caretaker(s), they grow up non-violent. As we will see in future chapters, childrearing is an evolutionary process, and in some countries a portion of both mothers and fathers now bring up their children without abuse or neglect.
In most of the world, however, the younger and more vulnerable children are, the more they are hit. When I gave the speech on British childrearing in London and told a British parent that even Tony Blair “smacked” his little baby, he said it was necessary: “Sure. They can’t talk, so you have to hit them to teach them obedience!” As Straus puts it in his book Beating the Devil Out of Them: “Hitting toddlers is just about universal.”34 By the time they are two or three years old, girls form groups that are built around mutuality, not dominance, whereas boys form defensive groups that use pretend or real violence to enforce rules and violent heroic action. They pretend that the group is itself like a mother’s body with whom they fuse to gain her power and toward whom they act as a savior, as a group “Hero.”35 Boys who have been distanced by mothers and others in their families in their first three years form defensive “toughness” by the time they are four, demonstrating they are not weak, not wimps, by being a Hero to their group and defeating the out-group’s Hero.36 In school, teachers repeat the differing gender patterns. “When girls aggress, nobody notices and nobody reacts. Teachers respond to boys when they scream, cry, or whine; they respond to girls when they use gestures, gentle touches, and speech.”37 Even in sports, boys are conditioned that violence and victory are good defenses against fears of weak selves, are effective in displaying bravado. Females—with their larger frontal lobes more equally distributed—are able to make friends and form groups based more on like interests, without their prefrontal cortices losing control to the overwhelming fears embedded in their amygdalae, as happens in males, and without the regular loss of empathy that abused, neglected and insecurely attached males experience.38
HOW BOYS EXTERNALIZE THEIR FEARS
The propensity of boys to engage in violent, risky, self-destructive behaviors is increased by their often responding to maternal distancing by building defensive fantasies that they are encased in “autistic shells” that make them invulnerable to dangers and that “hide their tender parts” from their unresponsive parents.46 This is why boys are over ten times more likely to be afflicted with full-blown autism than girls,47 where they ignore the emotions of others and actually crawl inside boxes and cling to hard surfaces and mechanical devices in place of relating to caretakers.48 This fantasy “shell” is also the source of boys’ early fascination with cars and other encasing mechanical toys. Parents who warn boys against dangerous car driving know they often are wasting their time since boys know the activity is for the purpose of courting dangers. As Nietzsche proclaimed, “The secret to getting the most fun out of life is: to live dangerously.”49 But this overlooks that boys know at some level that they are far more likely to be seriously injured or killed in accidents, and that their engaging in risky behavior is actually designed to be self-destructive.
HOW BOYS ARE GIVEN LESS LOVE AND CARE THAN GIRLS
But the crucial variable is the distancing and lack of care given to boys by most mothers in all societies. Whether it is because mothers are female and can more closely identify with the needs of their girls or because the boys are male like their husbands and are blamed for their failings and lack of help in child care or any one of dozens of other reasons that we will examine in the next chapter, mothers teach their boys that “it is not enough to separate from her; he must make a total, wrenching split [and] exorcise any aspect of his mother from his own personality….The battle between establishing distance and clinging to dependence takes hold of a boy almost at the moment that he learns to differentiate himself from his mother or sister as a male, rather than a female.”56 The only way boys sometimes are allowed to get close to their mothers is when they are sick—times that are remembered by men as blissful since only then can they admit their desperate need for nurturing. In contrast, “over 80 percent of the men in my study remembered a recurring childhood nightmare of coming home from school and finding their mothers gone. With mounting terror, the little boy would run from room to room looking for his mother…most of the men described memories of a deep loneliness, feelings of being totally helpless.”57
Mothers may dominate their little girls and expect them to share their troubles, but domination has been found to be far less damaging to the child’s psyche than abandonment and routine distancing. Mothers throughout history simply give up on closeness to their sons at birth because they are expected to “say goodbye” almost immediately: “After the first few years a boy goes over to his father. And then he leaves home and that’s it….’A son is a son till he gets him a wife, a daughter’s a daughter the rest of her life.’” A daughter is seen as a companion, “a friend for life;” “boys soon say goodbye.”58 Boys become more emotionally needy than girls: “They…focus more on the mother, display more signals expressing escape and distress and demands for contact than do girls.”59 Sons are often encouraged to play the role of being a “bodyguard” to the mother, becoming “man of the house” or even “lover” in response to his father’s frequent absence, hoping to cheer up his depressed or beaten or alcoholic mother60—an important basis for his later fantasy that he must be a Hero who can save his Motherland. It is not surprising that careful studies have shown that in “the overwhelming majority (four out of five), mothers and daughters were closer than mothers and sons…As one mother put it, ‘When I look at my daughter, I see myself. When I look at my son, I see my son.’”61
HOW BOYS’ ABANDONMENT AND SHAME IS DEFENDED AGAINST BY GRANDIOSITY AND VIOLENCE
1 Robert W. Firestone, Suicide and the Inner Voice. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1997, p. 68.
2 Joshua S. Goldstein, War and Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System and Vice Versa. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001, p. 144.
3 Kaj Bjoerkqvist, et al., “Do Girls Manipulate and Boys Fight?” Aggressive Behavior 18(117).
4 Willard W. Hartup, “The Development of Aggression: Where Do We Stand?” Richard E. Tremblay et al, Eds., Developmental Origins of Aggression. New York: The Guilford Press, 2005, p. 6; John Archer and Sylvana Cote, “Sex Differences in Aggressive Behavior: A Developmental and Evolutionary Perspective,” Ibid., p. 433.
5 Stephanie H. M. Van Goozen, “Hormones and the Developmental Origins of Aggression.” In Richard E. Tremblay et al, Eds., Developmental Origins of Aggression. New York: The Guilford Press, 2005, p. 287; J. Archer, “The Influence of Testosterone on Human Aggression,” British Journal of Psychology 82 (1991): 1-28.
6 Leo Braudy, From Chivalry to Terrorism: War and the Changing Nature of Masculinity. New York: Knopf, 2003, p. 12.
7 Stephen J. Ducat, The Wimp Factor: Gender Gaps, Holy Wars, and the Politics of Anxious Masculinity. New York: Beacon Press, p. 178.
8 Goldstein, War and Gender, p. 149.
9 Neil Boyd, The Beast Within: Why Men Are Violent. New York: Greystone Books, 2000, p. 134.
10 Joshua S. Goldstein, The Real Price of War: How You Pay for the War on Terror. New York: New York University Press, 2004, p. 169. The so-called “gender gap” of married women in recent U.S. polls favoring less violent options seems to be caused by their responsibility for the safety of their children; see Joshua S. Goldstein, War and Gender, p. 129.
11 Mary E. Bendyna, et al., “Gender Differences in Public Attitudes toward the Gulf War.” The Social Science Journals 33(1996):1-22; “New Poll Shows Women’s Vote Critical in Final Days,” www.comscore.com/press/release.asp?press=512. Katherine Ellison, The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood Makes Us Smarter. New York: Basic Books, 2005, p. 34; for a conflicting viewpoint, see Pamela J. Conover, “Gender, Feminist Consciousness, and War.” American Journal of Political Science (37(1993): 1079-1099.
12 The Boston Globe, March 12, 2006, p. 12.
13 Renate Bridenthal et al., Eds., When Biology Became Destiny: Women in Weimar and Nazi Germany. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1984, p. 34.
14 Howard Tolley, Jr., Children and War: Political Socialization to International Conflict. New York: Teachers College Press, 1973, p. 40.
15 Michael A. Milburn and Sheree D. Conrad, The Politics of Denial. London: The MIT Press, 1996, pp. 22, 55; Lawrence LeShan, The Psychology of War: Comprehending Its Mystique And Its Madness. New York: Helios Press, 2002, p. 91.
16 Robet H. Blank, Brain Policy: How the New Neuroscience Will Change Our Lives and Our Politics. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1999, p. 66.
17 Frederic Schiffer, Of Two Minds: The Revolutionary Science of Dual-Brain Psychology. New York: The Free Press, 1998, p. 91.
18 Lloyd deMause, The Emotional Life of Nations, New York: Karnac,2002, pp. 145-146; William J. Cromie, “Childhood Abuse Hurts the Brain.” Harvard University Gazette. May 22, 2003; Deborah Blum, Sex on the Brain: The Biological Differences Between Men and Women. New York: Penguin, 1998, p. 180.
19 John Archer and Sylvana Cote, “Sex Differences in Aggressive Behavior: A Developmental and Evolutionary Perspective.” In Richard E. Tremblay, at al, Eds., Developmental Origins of Aggression, pp. 431-434.
20 Evelyn G. Pitcher, Boys and Girls at Play: The Development of Sex Roles. New York: Praeger, 1983, p. 51.
21 James F. Masterson, Search For The Real Self: Unmasking The Personality Disorders Of Our Age. New York: Free Press, 1990.
22 Alan Booth et al, “Testosterone and Child and Adolescent Adjustment: The Moderating Role of Parent-Child Relationships.” Developmental Psychology 39(2003): 85-98; Terrence Real, I Don’t Want To Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression. New York: Scribner, 1997, p. 143.
23 E. Z. Tronick and M. Katherine Weinberg, “Depressed Mothers and Infants: Failure to Form Dyadic States of Consciousness.” In Lynne Murray and Peter J. Cooper, Eds., Postpartum Depression and Child Development. New York: The Guilford Press, 1997, p. 61.
24 Eleanor E. Maccoby, The Two Sexes: Growing Up Apart, Coming Together. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1998, p. 139.
25 Louann Brizendine, The Female Brain. New York: Morgan Road Books, 2006, p. 15.
26 Murray A. Straus, Beating The Devil Out Of Them: Corporal Punishment in American Families and its Effects on Children. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2001; Gavin Nobes et al, “Physical Punishment by Mothers and Fathers in British Homes.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 14(1999): 887-902.
27 Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown’s School Days. Philadelphia: Henry Altemus, 1895, p. 210.
28 William S. Pollack, Real Boys’ Voices. New York: Random House, 2000, p. 20.
29 Ibid., p. 36.
30 James Garbarino, Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them. New York: The Free Press, 1999, p. 43.
31 Peter Newell, Children Are People Too: The Case Against Physical Punishment. London: Bedford Square Press, 1989, p. 69; Lloyd deMause, “What the British Can Do To End Child Abuse,” The Journal of Psychohistory 34(1006): 2-15.
32 William S. Pollack, Real Boys’ Voices, p. 90.
33 Ibid., p. 104.
34 Murray A. Straus, Beating the Devil Out of Them, p. 23.
35Lloyd deMause, The Emotional Life of Nations, pp. 123-124.
36 Eleanor E. Maccoby, The Two Sexes: Growing Up Apart, Coming Together. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1998.
37 Anne Campbell, Men, Women and Aggression. New York: BasicBooks, 1993, p. 34.
38 Elkhonon Goldberg, The Executive Brain: Frontal Lobes and the Civilized Mind. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 98; Louis Cozolino, The Neuroscience of Human Relationships: Attachment and the Developing Social Brain. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2006, p. 273.
39 Myriam Miedzian, Boys Will Be Boys: Breaking the Link Between Masculinity and Violence. New York: Lantern Books, 2002, p. 92.
40 Ibid., p. 93.
41 Joshua S. Goldstein, War and Gender, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001, p. 137.
42 Evelyn Silten Bassoff, Between Mothers and Sons: The Making of Vital and Loving Men. New York: Dutton, 1994, p. 34.
43 Sue Mansfield, The Gestalts of War: An Inquiry Into Its Origins and Meanings as a Social Institution. New York: Dial Press, 1982, p. 198.
44 James Gilligan, Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic. New York: Vintage Books, 1996, p. 109.
45 Myriam Miedzian, Boys Will Be Boys: Breaking the Link Between Masculinity and Violence. New York: Doubleday, 1991, p. 205.
46 Judith L. Mitrani, Ordinary People and Extra-Ordinary Protections: A Post-Kleinian Approach to the Treatment of Primitive Mental States. New York: Brunner-Routledge, 2001, p. 48.
47 Marc D. Hauser, “Knowing About Knowing.” Ann. N.Y. Acad.Sci. 1001(2003): 93.
48 Frances Tustin, Autism and Childhood Psychosis. New York: Hogarth Press, 1972.
49 Leonard Sax, Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences. New York: Random House, 2005, pp. 42-43.
50 Bonnie Macmillan, Why Boys Are Different and How to Bring Out the Best in Them. London: Hamlyn, 2004, pp. 46, 55, 69, 73, 141, 143; Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson, Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys. New York: Ballantine Books, 1999, p. 53; Evelyn S. Bassoff, Between Mothers and Sons, pp. 53-54.
51 Cynthia Eller, The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory. Boston: Beacon Press, 2000, p. 70.
52 Andrea O’Reilly, Ed. Mothers & Sons: Feminism, Masculinity, and the Struggle to Raise Our Sons. New York: Routledge, 2001, p. 14.
53 Shelley E. Taylor, Tending Instinct: How Nurturing Is Essential for Who We Are and How We Live. New York: Times Books, 2002, p. 102.
54 Howard Zinn, Howard Zinn on War. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2001.
55 James Bowman, Honor: A History. New York: Encounter Books, 2006.
56 Carole Klein, Mothers and Sons. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1984, pp. 50, 7.
57 Ibid., pp. 46-47.
58 Olga Silverstein and Beth Rashbaum, The Courage to Raise Good Men. New York: Viking, 1994, p. 7.
59 E. Z. Tronick and M. Katherine Weinberg, “Depressed Mothers and Infants: Failure to Form Dyadic States of Consciousness.” In Lynne Murray and Peter J. Cooper, Eds., Postpartum Depression and Child Development. New York: The Guilford Press, 1997, p. 69.
60 Ibid., p. 63; James Garbarino, Lost Boys, p. 56.
61 Louis Genevie and Evan Margolies, The Motherhood Report: How Women Feel about Being Mothers. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1987, p. 289.
62 William Pollack, Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1998, p. 11.
63 Ibid., p. 13.
64 Terrence Real, How Can I Get Through to You? Reconnecting Men and Women. New York: Scribner, 2002, p. 95.
65 Eleanor E. Maccoby, The Two Sexes, p. 130.
66 Dan Kindlon, Alpha Girls. New York: Rodale, 2006, p. 68.
67 Ann F. Caron, Strong Mothers, Strong Sons: Raising Adolescent Boys in the ‘90s. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1994, p. 66.
68 Ibid., p. 68.