Boys who are close to their mum tend to have better mental health. Picture: Flickr.com

London - They may be the stereotypical butt of jokes. But mummy’s boys are less likely to suffer from poor mental health or unpopularity at school, research suggests.

And the same is true for daddy’s girls, who enjoy a similar lift in their self-esteem and confidence.

The study by the Marriage Foundation concluded that boys and girls who are close to their parent of the opposite sex fare better at coping with teenage life.

Boys deemed "extremely close" to their mothers at 14 are 41 percent less likely to have mental health problems, the research found. And girls close to their fathers are 44 percent less likely to suffer emotional problems or have trouble with their peers.

While boys are happier when their parents are married, girls are more reassured by their parents demonstrating a high-quality relationship.

The analysis, which uses Millennium Cohort Study data from 11 000 mothers, found that the biggest factor affecting teenage mental health was family breakdown.

Harry Benson, research director of Marriage Foundation, who co-authored the study with Professor Steve McKay from the University of Lincoln, said: "Our analysis shows once again that family breakdown remains the number one driver of teenage mental health problems.

"Our really interesting new finding is that boys and girls are especially influenced by their relationship with the opposite sex parent.

"Boys who are close to their mum tend to have better mental health, as do girls who are close to their dad."