Socialization of Boys and Girls

In rural areas it is still common for friends and relatives to decorate the home of a newborn child with a wooden stork, baby clothes, and toys hanging on a line. While there is nothing special to announce the birth of a boy, if a girl has been delivered tins and a sign reading B├╝chsenmacher (tin-maker) referring to the father (B├╝chsen stands for the female genitals as well as the girl), are added to the line.

When surveyed, parents tend to state that they value girls and boys alike. However, when asked about the gender preference of their first (and often only) child, a change can be observed: no longer a son (as son and heir) but a daughter is preferred. One explanation is that, owing to welfare and social security systems, parents in Western societies do not depend on male heirs to support them financially when in old age but on daughters to do household and nursing tasks and to care for them emotionally. Also, the valuation of "masculine" aggressive behavior and "female" soft skills have changed. The first is regarded as more of a problem because boys attract attention as ruffians or trouble-makers with poor social skills as early as in kindergarten and elementary school (both domains of female teachers), while girls fit in better and do better in this environment because of their soft skills.

There are different emotional expectations of boys and girls, which also show in the color blue for boys and pink for girls in baby garments, as well as more technical toys and computer games for boys and dolls for girls. However, it is usually not regarded as a "problem" for girls to behave as tomboys or for boys to enjoy playing with dolls. At first glance, childhood seems to be a more or less "gender-free" phase, but nevertheless behavior judged as "natural" for boys or girls is either enhanced or discouraged. Girls must mind their manners, that is, be more disciplined and less noisy, but compassionate and generally "friendly". It can be observed, though, that some mothers are encouraging their daughters to be as aggressive as boys. Nevertheless girls are still supposed to help with household tasks, while only a minority of boys are expected to do cleaning, wash dishes, cook, and do the laundry. Such chores are considered to be girls' work; only taking the garbage outside is regularly done by boys. More than three quarters of men and women of the younger generation think that boys and girls should both help in the house.

Only few open differences in the upbringing and education of boys and girls exist, but there are still a number of smaller and less conscious signs which send clear signals in one direction or the other. Germans clearly tend to bring their children up and "educate" in an informal rather than a formal way about "proper" gender behavior.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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