Considering Sex Differences for Effective Education
As many parents observe everyday, boys and girls display a number of differences in their interest in, and strategies for, connecting with others. Although many believe that socialization explains these sex differences, the evidence for deep-seated biological influence is strong. First, until children are about three, they don’t even know what the stereotypes are, so they cannot be imitating what they think boys and girls are “supposed” to do. Second, experiments with other primates show that female adolescents newly exposed to dolls and trucks usually prefer the dolls whereas their male counterparts usually prefer the trucks . And, greater male interest in rough and tumble play is seen in humans around the world as well as in other primates. Moreover, biology even helps explain the exceptions. Females who have been exposed to more testosterone in the womb are more likely than others to prefer balls and trucks to dolls as children .
Gender Differences in Social Connection Evident from Birth
In the first weeks and months of life, young boys and girls show different interests in other humans. One-week-old baby girls can distinguish an infant’s cry from other noise; boys usually cannot. Three-day-old girls maintain eye contact with a silent adult for twice as long as boys. Girls will look even longer if the adult talks; it makes no difference to boys. Four-month-old girls can distinguish photographs of those they know from people they do not; boys the same age generally cannot. On the other hand, five-month-old boys are more interested than girls in three-dimensional geometric forms and in blinking lights. They smile and babble at them as if they were animated—a mistake that girls rarely make [3, 4].
When given a choice, one-year old girls look longer at a film of a human face, whereas boys look longer at a film of cars. But young girls are not just more interested in people than boys are; they appear to care more about them. Girls tend to be more empathetic. At twelve months, girls encountering distress in others show more unhappy faces and behave in a more comforting manner.
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