In my extensive (2-year) stint as a boy mom, I’ve come to know one thing: I want my son to grow up to be a man who is different. When describing my someday-adult son, I’d prefer if I could avoid using the adjectives traditionally associated with masculinity—macho, tough, stoic. Not that any one of those qualities is necessarily terrible in the right dose and the right situation.

But I’d rather be able to look at my little boy (even when he’s 30, 50, 75) and say that I raised him to be kind, a good communicator, and emotionally present. I won’t even shy away from calling him a mama’s boy, especially since science has proven time and again that mama’s boys win out in the long run.

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Back in 2010, Carlos Santos, professor at Arizona State University's School of Social and Family Dynamics, introduced us to his study which followed 426 boys through middle school.

The study focused on the “extent to which the boys favor stereotypically male qualities such as emotional stoicism and physical toughness over stereotypically feminine qualities such as emotional openness and communication, and whether that has any influence on their mental well-being.”

The result?

All the boys tended to perpetuate typical hypermasculinity as they got older. Not surprising, I guess.

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But, the mama’s boys? They were less likely to define masculine behavior as “tough, stoic, and self-reliant,” probably because they share close relationships with strong women who are teaching them to break down some of those destructive gender role stereotypes.

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But the clincher for me is that those mama’s boys ACTED the way they’d been taught, IRL. Because it’s one thing to say you believe something, and another to BE the person you describe.

The boys who shared closer relationships with their moms were not only more emotionally available, but suffered less from anxiety and depression than the other boys.

Other studies have proven that it is actually close, healthy relationships that generate real joy in our lives. And those studies expound on the fact that joy equals better health, more long-term fulfillment, and more success. (Like $80K more a year, kind of success. If that appeals to you at all.)

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Yet another study followed 6,000 children and found that the ones who didn’t form secure and nurturing attachment with their mothers early on became aggressive and destructive kids. And, again, they were more anxious, emotionally distant, and wary of commitment as adults.

If those findings aren’t enough to convince you to keep your boys close, I don’t what will. And next time you see a little boy clinging to his mama, feel free to let her know that she is doing everything just right.

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