The Liberal Democrat equalities minister Jo Swinson sparked debate last week by suggesting that boys should be more actively encouraged to play with dolls at an early age, in an effort to stimulate their 'nurturing and caring' instincts. Her comments were intended to be a reaction to the perceived shortage of men who develop careers within the carer industry. Her argument seems to rest on the consequences of boys being encouraged to adopt a stereotypical view at an early age, maybe being encouraged to play with (toy) guns, cars and action figures instead, as being to steer them in a certain direction later in life when they are considering suitable occupations to be involved in.

Swinson's responses were made during a debate with fellow MPs where one member drew her attention to the concerning statistic that women make up a massive 82% of the care Workforce. She believes that there is potential for boys and young men to begin to seriously consider becoming carers in future to redress the imbalance. Having a year-old son of her own, one wonders if she will actively encourage that behaviour in him as he grows up.

She does of course have a more generic intention in her message, in that all genders should be encouraged to engage what many have referred to in the past as their 'feminine' side, but is in effect a set of behaviours that should be common to some extent across the sexes irrelevant of whether they are male or female.

Caring and nurturing are important in all human beings, in alliance with many other behaviours that in total develop rounded people in later life.

As more people develop life changing illnesses that effect their abilities to carry out what many perceive as a normal life, such as dementia and Parkinson's disease, more people will be required to meet the demands of such a society and to tap into their own caring psyche to cope with friends and family that are stricken down by them.

By developing those skills early in one's life, people will hopefully be able to handle the issues that they are presented with when they are confronted with them for real. Whether that implies that they will want to actively enter a caring-related career is uncertain however, and maybe the best approach is to not actively adopt a stereotypical viewpoint nor to force your own views on someone, but instead to present a balanced approach. Allowing the child to develop in their own way and to decide for themselves what to play with at an early age, may be a better approach to take rather than one extreme or another.