“Boys and girls friendships look rather similar in the preschool years,” says Dr. Jensen. But by age seven or eight, the nature of most boys’ friendships begin to change and typically becomes less emotionally based. “This can be viewed by watching a group of girls play and a group of boys play and seeing how they relate to one another,” explains Dr. Jensen. “Whereas the girls are more likely to be inclusive, play cooperatively, negotiate conflict, and show concern for feelings as in doll or house play, male childhood play is more likely to be competitive, test loyalty, and rely on comparison of physical skill and size.”
A debated, but common occurrence in boys usually occurs around the age of seven. This is when boys may be self conscious about showing affection to family and friends. However, not all boys develop the belief that gentle behavior, such as hugging, is unacceptable.
“Boys can be as affectionate as girls,” says Dr. Handwerk. “One important reason that boys tend not to be as affectionate as girls is socialization through media. Boys don’t see men hugging a lot.” Dr. Handwerk believes society is changing and this is a generalization that is less true today than in past generations.
Parents’ behavior can affect how their son shows affection. “In some families the show of affection is always there, and a hug between men does not disappear in their lives as they age,” says Sybil Paskowski of New Milford, Connecticut, a mother of two grown sons.