Read the full article atThe Guardian.

Fathers of daughters spent about 60% more time attentively responding to their child, compared to those with sons. They also spent about five times as much time singing and whistling with girls and spoke more openly about emotions, including sadness.

Fathers of sons spent about three times as long each day engaged in rough and tumble play and used more “achievement-related” language, including words such as “proud”, “win” or “best”.

The research could not establish the extent to which innate preferences of girls and boys might be prompting different treatment from their parent. However, the authors concluded that it was likely that social biases were playing at least some role.

Jennifer Mascaro, an assistant professor of family and preventive medicine at Emory University, Atlanta, who led the work, said: “We should be aware of how unconscious notions of gender can play into the way we treat even very young children.”

There is plenty of evidence that differences exist in the behaviour, aptitudes and toy preferences of boys and girls from an early age.

“The question is always how meaningful are those differences,” said Mascaro. “It’s a really thorny thing to understand. As soon as they come into the world they are part of a society that has huge biases in how we interact with males and females.”

Prof Susan Gelman, a psychologist at the University of Michigan who was not involved in the work, said: “This is a very interesting set of findings, with potentially important implications regarding the implicit messages that boys versus girls receive from an early age. Gender stereotypes and biases place limits on boys as well as girls, so it’s important for parents to be aware of how they may be passing along their own gender biases.”