Sunday, August 11, 2013

Differences Between Boys and Girls - Not What They Seem

Yet,  there's still that list of stereotypical traits that's true.  Impressionistic and anecdotal evidence aside, there are studies that support the differences between the sexes.  Admittedly, I read the Cliff notes version, but what I read does cite what are most likely reputable studies.

This article  discusses boy/girl differences in terms of eight traits:  social skills, spatial skills, toy preference, physicality, aggression, walking, talking and toilet training.  Brushing aside the article's preamble that the differences really aren't that great and ignoring their post-amble advice as to how to neutralize the differences they said didn't exist,  the eight traits are nonetheless  a good starting point.  Oh, and quite similar to those on my list.

Concerning social skills, baby girls show a preference for gazing upon human faces over mobiles while baby boys prefer mobiles, a tendency magnified in adulthood.  A bit more here.

In spatial skills, boys show an early and consistent edge over girls in the ability to visualize how an object will appear when rotated in space. Read more here.   And here. This relates to the boys-are-better-at-math stereotype which is apparently not without foundation. (It may also explain male pre-schoolers' fascination with construction sites and heavy machinery.  I've yet to see a girl of that age who wants to make an outing of going to watch a backhoe.)

Toy choice shows some evidence of innate preferences, beginning age one. 

Physicality is not necessarily any more the province of boys than girls, but I like the paraphrase of the researchers' summation--if there's a child who's more active than others, that child is more likely to be a boy.

Aggression, yes, boys more than girls due to testosterone.  Read about testosterone in the womb. Girls, too, have their ways with aggression, relational aggression.  Read here.

Walking, early or late, is not gender related.  And why would it be.  Humans have to walk.

Talking, yes, girls talk earlier than boys, have a larger vocabulary than boys earlier on, but the inequality evens out with age.  Differences in the proficiency of different areas of the brain and the larger corpus callosum for girls may play a role here.

Toilet training is apparently the domain of girls who train earlier.  This was never my own experience and I find the explanation that girls can sit longer a bit lame.  Also, what does it matter.  All toddlers finally have to toilet train.  It's a fundamental part of socialization.

If you look again at the traits, it's not that males have trait X and women don't.  It's not as if boys are active and women can't run, boys don't talk, but girls do, boys are aggressive, but girls aren't.  In fact, it's pretty much the opposite.   According to this hasty study, there are really only one or two traits that stand out as more the province of one sex than the other and that's the male's greater proficiency in the area of spatial skills and their greater amount of testosterone.  The sexes have the same traits  but manifested differently.

Males and females, boys and girls, men and women, the same yet clearly different and yet not always in the ways that at first we seem to think so obvious. What to make of the conundrum. Cutting to the chase and an abrupt conclusion, this is just a way of directing our attention to John Paul II's Theology of the Body,  and the original unity of male and female, his Mulieris Dignitatem and all his other writings in which he explores the human person, male and female, as being of the same nature, complementary to one another, but distinct from others of God's creating.

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