Differences between boys and girls

In terms of child development, the differences between boys and girls are far outweighed by their similarities. All children basically have the same needs regardless of their gender. differences between boys and girlsAnd yet “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” is almost always the first piece of information we give (or ask for) about a newborn baby. Socially, gender is a very important fact.

There are different schools of thought as to whether gender differences are hardwired into babies’ brains or are a product of social conditioning. In reality, it’s almost impossible to disentangle whether differences between boys and girls are biological or social because, right from birth, adults treat boys and girls differently.

Expectations are incredibly important here. When adults are given a baby to supervise or play with, which sex they believe that baby to be influences how they interact with him or her. Differences between boys and girls can almost always be matched to these observed differences in the behaviour of parents/carers. Girls tend to have better language skills (adults spend more time talking to girls), boys have higher activity levels (adults let boys be more boisterous), girls are better at fine-motor coordination tasks (girls are encouraged to do more crafts), boys show more physical aggression (adults allow boys more rough and tumble play), girls show more relational aggression through name-calling (adults talk to girls more about feelings) etc etc etc.

Whether you believe that these differences between boys and girls are due to expectations becoming self-fulfilling prophecies (nurture) or stem from a genetic blueprint (nature), gender difference isn’t just a harmless preference for pink over blue or dolls over trucks. The effects for boys and girls are tangible and not always positive. For example,

  1. Girls are a month or two ahead in language skills by the time they start school. By the time they leave Primary School, boys are about a year behind girls on reading and even more on writing.
  2. Boys are three times more likely to be excluded from school and four times more likely to exhibit behavioural difficulties. Boys are more likely to become involved in crime. More boys than girls commit suicide.
  3. Girls are more likely to show symptoms of depression and anxiety. More girls than boys attempt suicide. Girls are more likely to suffer from eating disorders and more likely to withdraw from physical exercise and sport during adolescence.

The list could go on.

Of course, all of these are just tendencies – an individual boy may well speak earlier and better than an individual girl. But shrugging our shoulders and accepting that “boys will be boys” is not without consequence.

We will probably never know how much of gender is genetic but we do know that the environment has a massive impact. And that means that parents have an opportunity consciously to counter gender bias and allow our children to be children first and foremost.

So, forget about arguments about avoiding pink and blue, talk to your sons more. Talk to them about moods and emotions and read books with them about feelings. Encourage your sons to express their feelings with words. Get your daughters running around, building big things and finding construction solutions. Encourage your girls to be a little more like boys and your boys to be a little more like girls and, maybe, they can all get a little bit more of the best of both worlds.

©Anita Cleare 2016

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4 thoughts on “Differences between boys and girls

  1. Rachel

    I like your tip about encouraging boys to be a little more like girls and girls a little more like boys. I think our children are living in a special time in history where the foundations of this gendered world are open for debate. It means girls really can do anything, and boys can too. Thanks for a great read.

    1. AnitaCleare Post author

      Thanks Rachel. I do think that having a gendered view of children (“Girls/Boys are just like that….”) can limit their potential and development and although they most certainly have to live in the real world I’d also like them to be able to change and challenge it if they want to!

  2. Maurice

    What you say is true as I have experienced and observed the differences between my boy and girl. My daughter is of 14 and she is two years younger than my son.. but, thinks things way too maturely than son. My son, on the other hand is a bit childish and often seems to get in trouble and like you said; the daughter is sensitive and loses her calm at cliche of time.


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