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Afraid of Men


crying at school

My 8-month old baby girl will not be left alone with a man (including Daddy) without screaming non-stop.  It is not a “stranger-issue” because she is fine with all women…it seems to only be men.  It’s been very difficult because she can’t even be left only with Daddy.  Thoughts/Ideas?

Children typically prefer their mother in the first year, especially when they are exclusively breastfed. In cases like this, most parents worry the child has been abused by a male figure. Fortunately, that is rarely the case. Most children prefer women. There is medical research that shows children are more afraid of men with beards, even when their own father has a beard.

I do think this is a variation on stranger anxiety. Her fear of all strangers (both male and female) will likely worsen in the next several months. This is a normal protective response. We want our children to look for us when they are lost in a store.

The good news is this will get better with time. If you want to address it "head on" then your husband needs to be left to care for his daughter alone. Once his daughter sees him as her caregiver, she will get over her fears.

Two years ago, we planned to go on a Gordon family camping trip. When my eldest daughter fell sick, my wife agreed to stay back with her. I ended up taking the other five kids camping including my 10 month old son. At the time my 10 month old was mommy addicted. Since that weekend he and I have been buddies.

Dads are usually number one with two to three year olds. At this age, I usually have a little helper on the weekends and often have to share my meals and chairs.

Follow up

She is definitely better about the “men thing”…it just seemed to phase itself out. However, she’s two weeks away from turning one, and now she’s in the “I don’t like stranger phase”.

Written December 2010
Follow up posted April 2011
Dr. Gordon, Orlando Pediatrician



 is intended to help parents understand the needs and behaviors of children. The information presented in the site is the opinion of Gregory Gordon, M.D.and does not reflect the opinion of his partners. This website is owned exclusively by Doctors insights LLC. The advice in this site does not apply to all children. Always consult your healthcare provider for your individual needs.

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