2000 Jordan Institute
3, No. 1
Are Girls Really More Resilient?
Although research suggests that girls are more resilient than boys, practitioners should be careful about relying on this conclusion. There are several explanations for the higher incidence of serious emotional and behavioral disturbance in boys.
One theory is that, due to dominant cultural values, girls are more likely to keep their distress to themselves. Girls are often taught that assertiveness is impolite, while boys learn to express their feelings freely. Therefore, boys may show their anger in destructive ways, while their sisters remain relatively "calm." As a result, mental illness may go undetected in girls, only to show up later in life.
Another explanation has to do with the many roles girls play. Especially as they reach maturity, girls may be asked to become housekeepers, employees, and caretakers for children. Parents may feel that it is necessary for girls to remain in the home at all costs. Boys are more likely to be removed from the home (Packman, 1986), which often aggravates existing problems.
Thus, girls may appear more resilient than they actually are. With this in mind, practitioners should accept that boys and girls may have different ways of expressing their distress, and take care not to stigmatize boys or ignore girls.
Packman, J. (1986). Who need care. Oxford: Blackwell Scientific.
Rutter, Michael. (1987). Psychosocial resilience and protective mechanisms. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 57(3), 316-331.
© 1998 Jordan Institute for Families