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Do Children Need a Male and Female Parent?


In these days of gender equality, marriage equality and equal employment opportunities, it might seem odd to even contemplate discussing the topic of a male parent versus a female parent. Undoubtedly many well-adjusted children are raised in single gender families and the equality of parenting may seem an out-dated and narrow-minded topic of discussion.

However, there are a number of ‘experts’ who agree that the influence of both a female and a male are vital for proper child development.

According to Dr. Kyle Pruett of Yale Medical School, females and males parent very differently. This diversity give the child a broader, richer experience of interactions. Some of his ideas are listed below.

  1. Fathers tend to play with their children whilst mothers tend to care for them.
    • Fathers encourage competition
    • Mothers encourage equity.

    Both provide security and confidence by communicating love and physical intimacy in their own way.

  2. Fathers tend to push limits and encourage risk-taking taking whilst mothers encourage security and consideration of consequences.
    • Together these give children a good balance and help children to remain safe yet still try new things and expand their confidence.
  3. Mothers and fathers often communicate differently.
    • A father can often discuss things briefly and to the point.
    • Mothers tend to be more descriptive and personal.
  4. Mothers and fathers prepare their children for life in a different way.
    • Dads tend to see their child in relation to the rest of the world.
    • Mothers see the rest of the world in relation to their child.
  5. Fathers provide an insight into the world of men; mothers provide and insight into the world of women.
    • Dr. Pruett believes that girls who have a good relationship with their father are more likely to have healthy relationships with men as they grow up. They learn from their father how men should act towards women. This knowledge can build emotional security and safety from the exploitation of predatory males.
    • Alternatively boys who have a good relationship with their mother develop a sensitivity towards women. This helps them to relate and communicate appropriately with women.
  6. Both Mothers and Fathers teach respect for the opposite sex.
    • A married father is substantially less likely to abuse his wife or children than men in any other category. This means that boys and girls with married fathers in the home learn, by observation, how men should treat women.
    • Girls and boys with married mothers learn from their mothers what a healthy, respectful female relationship with men looks like.

In conclusion, Dr. Pruett believes that when we disregard the gender distinctions of parental influence as unimportant or unnecessary, we seriously diminish the proper development of children.

Of course not all children have a mother and father. Divorce, separation or death can cause single-gender parenting in many families. Consequently, if we accept Dr Pruett’s ideas then strong male/female influence in the form of a family member such as an aunt or uncle, grandfather or grandmother, is a reasonable alternative.

Giving children a broader, richer experience of interactions as well as good role models, both male and female, will hopefully see children develop into caring healthy and insightful adults.