Boys live up to expectations of behaving badly

Psychology

Baby boys may behave more badly than girls because mothers expect them to be more difficult, the British Psychological Society was told yesterday, writes Glenda Cooper.

The mothers' belief that boys are more troublesome may be linked to their developing more behavioural problems than girls. Research presented at the society's developmental section conference in Oxford found mothers were more sensitive towards girl babies, while boys experienced more restrictions.

Looking at 55 babies at three, five, eight and 14 months, Liz Connors, from the University of Central Lancashire, studied the mothers caring for their children and their responses to their baby crying. Boys were fussier than girls as early as three months and were perceived as more temperamentally difficult. But male babies who had bonded well with their mother were more adaptable and less unpredictable. Few differences were seen in the behaviour of girl and boy babies themselves, except that girls tended to show more active play by the age of 14 months.

But when both sexes showed difficult behaviour, mothers responded in a negative way to boys and a positive way to girls. At three and a half months, mothers of boys tended to focus their attention on objects rather than themselves, compared with mothers and daughters. Mothers were also more sensitive towards girls.

Dr Connors said the consequences of the less secure attachment between mothers and sons could lead to "a greater likelihood of boys developing behavioural problems later in life".

The Society was told that soldiers of the future will not need heavy radios, navigation aids and power packs. In 30 years they will have chips in their heads which work out their location from positioning satellites and be able to communicate directly with their command posts - all the while powered by their shoes.

Utah University researchers have already given rudimentary vision to people with retinal damage by linking chips and cameras to their brains with wireless links. Peter Thomas, professor of computing at the University of the West of England, said such advances meant creation of cyborgs (humans integrated with microprocessors) was not far off. "The first use will be in the military and then the disabled and then people who want them by choice."

"Wearable computers" are already reality. "The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has a system which has all the computing components you need for a PC but which you can wear."

In future, we will not have to carry a laptop or log into a computer on our desk, said the professor. "The idea is that you carry the computing power that you need on your body."

This will lead to the idea of computers as fashion: "In Hong Kong, people all have mobile phones and pagers, and the two are connected. Philips in the Netherlands is developing T-shirts with built-in circuits which can play music, so you might put on your hip-hop T-shirt one day and your heavy-metal T-shirt the next."

The shirts pass further tests - they are washable and draw power from body movement, with piezo-electric inserts in shoes which generate power with every step.

"It would mean that rather than having to drop a soldier with a huge backpack, they could go into battle almost naked," said Professor Thomas.

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