Raising boys and girls – is one harder than the other?
It seems everyone, whether they’re a parent or not, has a theory on why one gender is more difficult to raise than the other.
The stereotype has boys harder when they’re little as they’re way too boisterous, active and accident-prone, while girls are hitting their problematic straps in the tween years when they’re embroiled in friendship and body image issues. Both sexes are meant to be horrible as teens.
So are these stereotypes true or just age-old clichés? Here are a few findings on each gender, backed by research – and you can be the judge on which is harder.
1. Why does it seem that communicating with boys can be like talking to a brick wall?
It could be because from birth they don’t hear as well as girls. A 2007 study in Stockholm of 30,000 newborn babies found girls’ hearing is, “slightly but significantly” better than boys.
2. Do girls and boys think differently?
Quite literally, yes. Research has found that the wiring of 80 percent of brains is gender specific and while male brains are six to 10 percent larger, on average, than female brains, female brains have more connections. Plus the connecting area between the left and right sides of the brain is bigger in girls, which may mean females are able to use both sides of the brain more easily.
3. Why do boys seem more likely to want to play with something mechanical than a doll?
According to psychologists at the University of Cambridge in the UK, boys prefer to watch mechanical motion over human motion. When they gave 12-month-old boys the choice of looking at people talking or windshield wipers moving, they were rivetted by the wipers.
Other research has found that boys are about two months ahead of girls when it comes to understanding the laws of motion – for example, what happens to a ball if it’s pushed.
4. My son is always being x-rayed, my daughter has never had more than a dental x-ray. Is this gender-related?
These figures speak for themselves – according to the Ministry of Health Statistics in 2011-2012, there were 6,608 hospitalisations for injuries of boys, and 4,358 of girls. And males aged 20 to 25 years had almost twice as many hospitalisations for injury as females of the same age!
5. Is it true girls master language quicker than boys?
Collected research suggests the following:
- Girls begin to talk sooner and more clearly than boys.
- The average 20-month-old girl has twice the vocabulary of the average 20-month-old boy.
- Boys are much more likely to be diagnosed with stuttering.
- While there are no gender differences in vocabulary knowledge, girls tend to have more advanced spelling and grammar skills.
6. Is it true boys are less likely to have self-esteem issues?
Gender researchers have claimed that girls tend to grow up less confident and more insecure than boys because they are programmed to be “people pleasers”. But whether that programming is from some gender-specific brain wiring or from cultural pressure on girls to put others’ needs first is unknown.
This article was written by Fiona Baker for Kidspot, New Zealand's best parenting resource.