Boys who have a close relationship with their mother – affectionately known as mama’s boys – may have better mental health than those who provoke them, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association.

A study investigating how boy’s perceptions of stereotypically male and female qualities influence their mental well-being through middle-school reinforces previous research showing that close relationships give men a sense of emotional security, which can reduce stress and promote good health, Time.com reported.

Carlos Santos, a professor at Arizona State University School of Social and Family Dynamics, surveyed 426 boys through middle school and found the older they got, the more they tended to favor male stereotypes, like physical toughness and emotional stoicism over female stereotypes like emotional openness and communication. But those who maintained close emotional connections to their mothers didn’t act as tough, were more emotionally available and, on average, had better rates of mental health.

"If you look at the effect size of my findings, mother support and closeness was the most predictive of boys' ability to resist [hyper-masculine] stereotypes, and therefore predictive of better mental health," Santos said.

Santos asked them to rate a series of statements to measure how much they value the qualities of autonomy, emotional stoicism and physical toughness, including: “It’s important to talk about my feelings with friends,” or “Fighting others is something I have to do to prove myself," or "If I have a problem I take care of it on my own."

Boys tended to adopt the stereotypically male traits at the same rate despite race and ethnicity. Santos added that the father-son relationship doesn’t have the same effect.

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