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Brain and Body (Differences)?

Physical differences

Boys and girls have fundamental differences between their bodies, the majority are the obvious sexual ones, however others are usually down to size and strength. 

Boys develop bigger muscles and are therefore usually labelled as 'more able than girls' at climbing, running and various sports. However girls tend to develop fine motor skills quicker by taking part in activities such as drawing, writing - usually due to a keener interest (possibly developed because of society). 

 

Hormonal differences: Boys receive testosterone surges at different times of their lives including shortly after their birth (a few hours). 

Testosterone may be slightly higher in boys at early stages however despite the common belief, there is no evidence that this contributes to differences in behaviour.

Cognitive/Emotional differences

There is an extraordinary debate about what differences exist between male and female brains. 

On the one hand you have Michael Gurian, an expert on gender issues based in New York who states that there are numerous differences between boys' and girls' brains. In his book, 'Boys & Girls learn differently (2011),' he writes about the differences extensively, such as:

* Larger Amygdala in males (May make males more aggressive)

* Quicker Basal Ganglia in males (Males generally quicker to respond to attention demands in physical environment.)

* Frontal lobe matures earlier in females (May lead to improved verbal communication skills and less risk taking in females.)

See, 'Boys & Girls Learn Differently (2011) by Michael Gurian for the complete list.

Similarly, differences between the sexes are repeated by Bayley and Featherstone in, 'Boys and girls come out to play (2011).'

Both Bayley & Feathersone and Gurian suggest a significant difference between boys and girls within the Corpus Callosum. This part of the brain that allows the two hemispheres to link and communicate with each other more freely.  Gurian (2011) argues that is allows females to, "process more information more quickly between the two hemispheres, connecting language and emotion processing centers more efficiently."  

- This idea might ring true with many of you (it did with me!) 'Finally, an answer as to why girls appear to have more vocabulary!' However...

This theory was based upon a study from pre-1910 which demonstrated the differences between adult male and female brains from cadavers. Subsequent research has found issues with this study and recent MRI scans demonstrate that these studies were flawed. (See: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/p...) 

Then you have Neuroscientists such as Lise Eliot who argue against this pop-neuroscience being applied to education and gender differences.  She argues that there are only two certainties in the differences between the brains:

" One is that boys' brains are larger than girls'; somewhere between 8 and 11 percent larger, depending on the study. [...]

The second reliable fact is the difference that shows up around the onset of puberty: girls' brains finish growing about one to two years earlier than boys'"

It is important to note that there are many who still fervently argue that there are difference between the male and female brain.

 

MY BELIEF:

Life experiences lay down neurons within each persons brain. Boys have a different growing up experience than girls because society tells each sex how to behave and what is expected of them. Arguably this means that babies' androgynous brains do become 'male' and 'female' brains but only by the experiences society provides for them. This develops more as children grow to adults. So when I ask people, 'are boys and girls brains different?' I say everyone is right but not because they are born differently, but because what society has done to the then. 

However you determine the differences between sexes, Julie Cigman (2017) very aptly wrote:

“ Neuroscience is still in its relative infancy and ambitious claims have been make about differences in the male and female brain that have been challenged equally robustly.  However, we do know for certain that all experiences change the neural pathways in the brain, so when adults respond to infants according to gender stereotypes and when children identify and conform to gender stereotypical expectations, the behaviour they exhibit influences the way their brains develop.”

  • Quoted from, 'Getting Boys up and running in the Early Years.'