Are boys more sensitive than girls? We ask the experts (and it might surprise you)

"Sensitivity isn’t about how often someone cries or talks about their feelings. It's about how deeply they feel things"

Little boy crying
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A therapist has claimed that boys are more sensitive than girls, going against the long held belief otherwise. But what do experts have to say about the research? 

It's long been the traditionally held belief that girls are more sensitive than boys. But with the new parenting focus on childhood mental health exposing things like the risk factors for childhood depression that affect boys and girls alike, as well as the complex adrenarche phase of development that affects all six-nine year olds regardless of gender, parents have been forced to challenge that belief. 

But not only does research show that girls aren't more sensitive than boys, it shows the complete opposite. That's according to psychotherapist Zara Kadir who recently took to Instagram to share 'research backed information' that shows boys tend to be more sensitive than girls and it's all thanks to hardwired bodily functions. 

"Boys' brains are wired to respond more intensely to stress," she shared. "Studies show that boys have higher cortisol levels, the stress hormones, in challenging situations."

She added, "They literally have larger amygdalas, the fear centre of the brain. Boys' amygdala is more reactive to negative stimuli. This means they might feel emotions like fear and anger more intensely."

These emotions, caused by uncontrollable bodily functions, are worsened by parents' reactions to them. "From a young age, boys can be more sensitive to social stressors," Kadir said, explaining the result of these hormone-caused emotions. "They may react strongly to perceived rejection or failure in social settings. If they're supported or are punished for their reactions, they're more likely to five up and become disruptive in classroom settings." 

The main issue, the expert highlights, is that boys' sensitivities are displayed in different ways to those of girls and that means they often get 'missed, misinterpreted or undermined.'

"Boys can exhibit high levels of empathy and a strong need for emotional connection, although they might express it differently than girls. If your son doesn't want to be kissed and cuddled, remember rough play can still be an expression of love and physical connection." 

She added, "Because boys can be more sensitive, they benefit greatly from supportive and understanding environments. Challenging behaviour needs to be seen as a call for connection, not punishment." 

Parents of boys were quick to take to the comments section to praise Kadir for her insight, thanking her for giving them an explanation behind their sons' behaviours. The response was no surprise to parenting specialist Kirsty Parsons who, speaking exclusively to, revealed that this misunderstanding of boys' sensitivity has long led boys and men to feel ignored. 

"People often think that girls are more sensitive because they tend to show their emotions more openly. They might cry or talk about their feelings more often, which makes their sensitivity more visible," she explained. "Boys, on the other hand, are often told from a young age to 'toughen up' and not show their emotions. This doesn’t mean they aren’t sensitive; it just means they’ve learned to hide it better."

Jessi Gholami, a licensed therapist, clinical social worker, and the Senior Editor at Start Here Parents, agrees with Parsons, adding that societal expectations force boys to hide their sensitivities but, by learning about how to notice sensitivity raising it's head, parents can begin to nurture and support boys better. 

She told, "What gets labeled sensitivity in girls often gets pathologised as weakness in boys from the get-go. This causes many to reflexively mute their emotional registers, putting up protective masculine facades to conform to rigid cultural ideals of toughness and stoicism. However, unprocessed emotions inevitably demand an outlet. 

"For insecure young boys lacking the emotional vocabulary or modeling, that sensitivity frequently emerges through tantrums, aggression, shutting down or self-destructive tendencies rather than open expression."

So what can parents do? "To raise resilient, self-actualised males, we must nurture emotional intelligence from an early age by providing our sons the language and safe spaces to articulate their interior lives, normalising emotionality as a healthy aspect of the full human experience," Gholami says.

Parsons offers similar advice. She told us, "It's important to remember that sensitivity isn’t about how often someone cries or talks about their feelings. It's about how deeply they feel things. Boys can be just as sensitive as girls; they just show it differently. We should encourage boys to express their feelings more openly without fear of being judged. This helps them understand and deal with their emotions better, which is important for their mental health."

In other family news, young children ‘lack the self-awareness’ to describe their feelings and could be more sad than you realise - here’s the top 3 early risk factors for childhood depression. Plus, Motherhood exhibition opens with over 100 artworks created by artists who were told being a mother isn’t an ‘appropriate subject for art’. And, intelligence is inherited from mum and fertility levels from your dad - here's 11 traits passed on by your parents and which one is responsible for each

News writer

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse is a news writer for Goodtoknow, specialising in family content. She began her freelance journalism career after graduating from Nottingham Trent University with an MA in Magazine Journalism, receiving an NCTJ diploma, and earning a First Class BA (Hons) in Journalism at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute. She has also worked with BBC Good Food and The Independent.