Gender and Giftedness
It is clear that the behavior of most girls differs from the behavior of most boys on most things most of the time. It has been only fairly recently that we have begun to understand why. From the beginning of their lives, moms and dads have noticed that little girls and boys seem to behave differently, so they have treated them differently. Of course, researchers noted that moms and dads treated boys and girls differently and assumed that this was why they behaved differently. Both observations are probably true, and both assumptions do contribute to the observed differences between genders.
Differences in ability between men and women may be rooted in biological differences that are established in the brain during prenatal life, shown in later differences in brain organization, and enhanced by hormones throughout the life span. How the sexes differ genetically in the way their brains develop, how the outside environment modifies this development, and how much we as parents and educators can affect the development of brain organization are questions now being asked and studied by those in the neurosciences.
Generally, male and female brains differ in anatomy and biochemistry, although male and female brains are more similar than different. Males and females have the same number of brain cells. Ninety-nine percent of the genetic coding of males and females is exactly the same. However, every cell is influenced by this difference. Genetic and hormonal influences beginning during prenatal development establish patterns of behavior and capabilities that we consider stereotypically male or female (Brizendine, 2006).
The environment strongly affects the brain’s capability and the child’s behavior, but the patterns are organized by genes and hormones. Until the eighth week, all fetuses are female. It requires a testosterone surge to change the fetus and form the male brain (Brizendine, 2006). The hormone testosterone may delay the development of the left hemisphere of the brain in male fetuses, giving female fetuses a head start in their use of left-brain hemisphere functions. So boys rely more on right-brain hemisphere functions, resulting in greater development of the visual-spatial skills.
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