Why Do Frenchwomen Find Boy Babies Depressing?
Frenchwomen are more likely to suffer post-partum depression if their babies are male, according to a surprising new study released today.
French psychology researchers interviewed 181 women one to two months after birth, and found that 9.4 percent of them were suffering severe postnatal depression; 22 percent were mildly depressed. Of the 17 deeply depressed women, 13 had given birth to boys. In the mildly depressed group (the ratings were based on answers to questions designed to test physical function, pain, mental health, emotions and social vitality), there were 24 girls and 16 boys. But in both the mildly and severely depressed groups, the mothers of boys were doing worse.
These results are the opposite of those arising in surveys conducted in China, South Asia and the Muslim world. In those countries, a high value is put on male babies, who carry the family name and sometimes win the family a dowry when married. In countries like India, women are sometimes beaten for giving birth to girls. No surprise, then, that contemplation of life with a girl baby can be more depressing.
The authors have a few notions about why female babies might be more desired in Western cultures. Using psychoanalytic language of “oedipal” and “narcissistic” personality constructs, they hypothesize that it’s easier for modern women to construct a relationship with a baby of the same sex. One woman interviewed during the study said she felt sad when she saw her son on an ultrasound because she would not be able to “educate him in a satisfactory way.” The authors also theorize that women having trouble with their relationships might see male babies as more difficult.
Another possibility is this one: the study might be a fluke. More research is obviously needed.
In the meantime, Happy Valentine’s Day, fellahs!