When It Comes to Crying, Men Are From Mars
Sept. 26, 2000 -- If the man in your life isn't prone to a "good cry" every now and then, don't necessarily assume he's emotionally challenged; he just has different reasons for crying than you do, according to a report at a recent meeting of the British Psychological Society. Researchers from the land of the stiff upper lip say, though, that men and women both feel better after crying, especially when experiencing a major loss.
"But men are more likely to cry as a result of positive feelings, like at sporting events, whereas women are more likely to cry as a result of negative feelings, like in personal conflicts," says study author Moira Maguire, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at England's University of Luton. "Women also tend to feel more emotions when they cry, particularly anger, frustration, fear, self-pity, and powerlessness," she tells WebMD.
To learn more about sex differences, the researchers surveyed over 80 adults about their most recent crying experience. Most participants felt better afterward, but women were more likely than men to feel worse. Women were also more likely to stop crying after being comforted, leading the authors to conclude that crying may be an important way of mobilizing social support.
These sex differences are largely due to socialization, Maguire says. "Male and female babies cry about the same amount, yet there are strong sex differences by adolescence in many Western countries. So adult crying behavior is mostly a learned response."
In fact, kids often adopt the crying behavior of their same-sex parent, according to developmental psychologist Carolyn Saarni, PhD, a professor at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, Calif.
"But when it comes to tears, boys may have more sex role socialization pressure than girls," she tells WebMD.
Yet crying is an important part of child development, Saarni says. "When parents respond to crying in a caring manner, children begin to learn some important coping skills. That's why it's not a good idea to tease kids about crying. Besides, teasing doesn't solve the problem behind the tears."