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One chilly morning my 3-year-old son bounced off the walls of our small home, as well as the couch and the dining-room chairs. In fact, the mini trampoline bought just for channeling such urges was the one piece of furniture on which he did not jump. When his shock of orange hair flew down the hall toward our sleeping newborn, I gave chase. He abruptly reversed direction and collided with me, stretching my pinky toe out at a degree angle. My brain registered an audible pop just before the icy fire of pain.
The next day, my foot was so swollen it could hardly bear weight. My son greeted me with his customary tackle-hug, inadvertently stomping on my toe and once again eliciting a snapping sound. When I woke, the agony had miraculously vanished. However, now that I was seeing a real gender difference, I wanted to call a spade a spade and my friends and family in thinking it all inevitable. After all, my sample size of two clearly lacked scientific rigor.
So I started reading. The first thing my online search found was a gaggle of experienced educators asserting that boys and girls act differently. Many of them used illustrative anecdotes, like that time a 4-year-old girl lovingly swaddled a dump truck while her male peer wielded a doll like a weapon.
I turned to books. Popular authors like Leonard Sax, M. In Why Gender Matters , Dr. And therein lies the problem. I found a separate crop of books offering an alternative perspective and reached out to some of the authors. Lise Eliot, Ph. We tend to think of human brains as developing from birth to grave according to a biological blueprint, but each day our experiences lead to growth in some circuits and synapses while letting others lie fallow. A pattern emerged from this research, and once it shifted my mindset, I saw it on the playground and on my living-room floor. Ultrasounds during pregnancy show no gender differences in activity level before birth, and none of the motor milestones are different between boys and girls in the first two years.
But from age 3 and up, the average boy is more active than about two thirds of girls. Research on toy preference and mental rotation skills tracks the same course, with a gender gap appearing only after several months of life. Another body of research—in which adults are misled about diapered genitalia—proves that people treat children differently based on gender, starting at birth. One study discovered that mothers speak to and interact more with infant and toddler girls, even though the boys are no less responsive. Other research has found that d speak more openly with daughters about sad feelings while using more achievement-oriented words such as proud, win, and top with sons.
D also sing to girls more, and both moms and d spend less time with their boys reading and storytelling, which are known to build empathy. Well, yes and no. Although male brains are exposed to higher levels of testosterone before and after birth, scientists disagree about how much that matters. Most theories are based on a kernel of truth but are extrapolated far beyond what scientific standards allow, says Dr. A researcher presented babies with a mobile and a human face and reported that male babies spent more time looking at the mobile and female babies at the face.
The bottom line Where does all this studying of studying leave us? At the same time, research has shown that social norms—bolstered by distorted science—act as self-fulfilling prophecies, forcing our kids into pink and blue boxes. Chu, Ed. By Gail Cornwall October 03, Save Pin FB More. African American Boy and Girl Hug. Credit: Zoe Adlersberg. Parents Magazine. By Gail Cornwall. Comments 4. Sort by: Newest. Newest Oldest. Load More Comments. Close this dialog window Add a comment.
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