A Mama’s Boy Will Grow Up to Be a Mature Man

Today’s Wall Street Journal has an essay by Kate Stone Lombardi about the benefits of strong mother-son relationships.  I couldn’t agree more with her.

In fact, research shows that boys suffer when they separate prematurely from their mothers and benefit from closeness in myriad ways throughout their lives

A study published in Child Development involving almost 6,000 children, age 12 and younger, found that boys who were insecurely attached to their mothers acted more aggressive and hostile later in childhood—kicking and hitting others, yelling, disobeying adults and being generally destructive.

A study of more than 400 middle school boys revealed that sons who were close to their mothers were less likely to define masculinity as being physically tough, stoic and self-reliant. They not only remained more emotionally open, forming stronger friendships, but they also were less depressed and anxious than their more macho classmates. And they were getting better grades.

There is evidence that a strong mother-son bond prevents delinquency in adolescence. And though it has been long established that teenagers who have good communication with their parents are more likely to resist negative peer pressure, new research shows that it is a boy’s mother who is the most influential when it comes to risky behavior, not only with alcohol and drugs but also in preventing both early and unprotected sex.

Finally, there are no reputable scientific studies suggesting that a boy’s sexual orientation can be altered by his mother, no matter how much she loves him.

My mom and I were extremely close, and in many ways she was my best friend growing up, until she died far too early when I was 12 years old. From her I learned how to clean (not cooking, which I learned on my own after she died), how to take care of my two younger brothers including changing the youngest brother’s diapers, how to be kind and compassionate, and how to think for myself. My dad taught me many wonderful skills, but without my mother there is no way my wife (of 27 years) would have married me. I had to do a lot of growing up before she would even date me, and my mother as a role model of a mature, self-controlled, intellectual, and loving person showed me the way.

I am very glad that my 14 year-old son is very close to my wife, as is my 17 year-old daughter. We are all affectionate with one another, as our parents taught us to be, and my wife’s qualities are helping to take the edge off our kids’ tempers and everything associated with puberty.  Kids need their moms, and boys are no different than girls in needing to be close to their moms throughout their lives.


More Facebook Friends Than Real Ones? Facebook Support Equals 50% of Marital Support?

How many friends do you really have, and where are these friends?  This recent article by Ned Potter of ABC News indicated some trends and research findings that I find disturbing:

We may “friend” more people on Facebook, but we have fewer real friends— the kind who would help us out in tough times, listen sympathetically no matter what, lend us money or give us a place to stay if we needed it, keep a secret if we shared one.

That’s the conclusion made by Matthew Brashears, a Cornell University sociologist who surveyed more than 2,000 adults from a national database and found that from 1985 to 2010, the number of truly close friends people cited has dropped — even though we’re socializing as much as ever.

On average, participants listed 2.03 close friends in Brashears’ survey. That number was down from about three in a 1985 study.

Even more disturbing to me was this:

Compared to other things that matter for support — like being married or living with a partner — it really matters. Frequent Facebook use is equivalent to about half the boost in support you get from being married.”

My take on this is that to the extent that that particular finding is valid, then a lot of people don’t have very health marriages.


I Found My Mate as a Date in College

Original Post 1-31-08

Although”officially” Karen and began dating the summer before I went off to college, we dated each other throughout college and she was my “steady” (a term probably unheard of on today’s college campuses. So once again, I felt like I was a Neanderthal when I read this in today’s Wall Street Journal:

College life has become so competitive, and students so focused on careers, that many aren’t looking for spouses anymore. Replacing college as the top marital hunting ground is the office. Only 14% of people who are married or in a relationship say they met their partners in school or college, says a 2006 Harris Interactive study of 2,985 adults; 18% met at work. That’s a reversal from 15 years ago, when 23% of married couples reported meeting in school or college and only 15% cited work, according to a 1992 study of 3,432 adults by the University of Chicago.

On the bright side, more students are having fun on group dates; also, deep, but platonic, male-female friendships are more common. With the benefit of hindsight, though, some grads may yearn for the stretches of time on campus for extracurricular activities and studying with the opposite sex.

Exactly. If Karen and I had waited until we got our professional lives settled (we’re still working on that), before seriously dating each other, we might have never gotten married. We might have moved to opposite ends of the country instead of meeting back in the middle again (in Michigan). Karen has done the bulk of the career sacrificing for the kids until recently. Now armed with her Ph.D. and a professorship at Meredith College, I am only too happy to let her take the lead while I take up more of the slack. Meanwhile, I’m sure that Maggie and Jack are both delighted that Karen and I chose to get married 22+ years ago.

Update 2-10-08:

Lori Gottlieb complains in this month’s The Atlantic Monthly about women in the 30s and 40s having “to settle” if they are going to find a mate before they can no longer reproduce or don’t want to grow old alone.  If I have time to draft a letter to  The Atlantic, I’ll recommend she read this blog posting.  She wanted to have it all:  perfect job, perfect lifestyle, and perfect mate.  Not finding the perfect mate, she chose to have a child on her own, and then still hope that a decent-enough mate might still be out there.

Unfortunately, not only is Ms. Gottlieb unrealistic to seek perfection, she hasn’t learned even in her 40s that you don’t seek out the ideal life (including a mate if that’s what you seek), you make it.  The same holds for careers, homes, and anything else it is making sacrifices of your time and energy.

Update 12-13-08

Now Charles M. Blow in the New York Times today writes:

To help me understand this phenomenon, I called Kathleen Bogle, a professor at La Salle University in Philadelphia who has studied hooking up among college students and is the author of the 2008 book, “Hooking Up: Sex, Dating and Relationships on Campus.”

It turns out that everything is the opposite of what I remember. Under the old model, you dated a few times and, if you really liked the person, you might consider having sex. Under the new model, you hook up a few times and, if you really like the person, you might consider going on a date.

I asked her to explain the pros and cons of this strange culture. According to her, the pros are that hooking up emphasizes group friendships over the one-pair model of dating, and, therefore, removes the negative stigma from those who can’t get a date. As she put it, “It used to be that if you couldn’t get a date, you were a loser.” Now, she said, you just hang out with your friends and hope that something happens.

Here’s what I then commented on the New York Times site:

I dated my girlfriend, now wife of 23 years, for four years while we were both in college and then we were engaged for several months before we got married. During this time, I had plenty of friends who were girls with whom I could have a great time going to parties, etc., but for which there was no expectation of a romantic or physical relationship BECAUSE I had a steady girlfriend back home.

We had lopsided ratios at Princeton in the 1980s (more men than women back then, rather than the opposite which is now the norm on many college campuses), so I don’t think that was a factor (women could have taken advantage of the ratio in ways that men can now do I suppose, but they didn’t).

What’s changed in my opinion is that women have now decided to give up the self-respect they had 30 years ago in an effort to “catch up” with the boys in loose behavior. I suppose if women behaved back then as they do now, we guys would have taken advantage of that, to the detriment of both sexes. I find it ridiculous and ironic that when I was in college, before there was AIDS, we were more careful than now when AIDS is an epidemic.