Excerpt: 'The Female Brain'

Boys know how to employ this afflliative speech style, too, but research shows they typically don't use it. Instead, they'll generally use language to command others, get things done, brag, threaten, ignore a partner's suggestion, and override each other's attempts to speak. It was never long after Joseph's arrival on the playground that Leila ended up in tears. At this age boys won't hesitate to take action or grab something they desire. Joseph took Leila's toys whenever he wanted and usually destroyed whatever Leila and the other girls were making. Boys will do this to one another - they are not concerned about the risk of conflict. Competition is part of their makeup. And they routinely ignore comments or commands given by girls.

The testosterone-formed boy brain simply doesn't look for social connection in the same way a girl brain does. In fact, disorders that inhibit people from picking up on social nuance - called autism spectrum disorders and Asperger's syndrome - are eight times more common in boys. Scientists now believe that the typical male brain, with only one dose of X chromosome (there are two X's in a girl), gets flooded with testosterone during development and somehow becomes more easily socially handicapped. Extra testosterone in people with these disorders may be killing off some of the brain's circuits for emotional and social sensitivity.

She Wants Community, but Only on Her Terms

By age two and a half, infantile puberty ends and a girl enters the calmer pastures of the juvenile pause. The estrogen stream coming from the ovaries has been temporarily stopped; how, we don't yet know. But we do know that the levels of estrogen and testosterone become very low during the childhood years in both boys and girls - al-though girls still have six to eight times more estrogen than boys. When women talk about "the girl they left behind," this is the stage they are usually referring to. This is the quiet period before the full-volume rock 'n' roll of puberty. It's the time when a girl is devoted to her best friend, when she doesn't usually enjoy playing with boys. Research shows that this is true for girls between the ages of two and six in every culture that's been studied.

I met my first playmate, Mikey, when I was two and a half and he was almost three. My family had moved into a house next door to Mikey's on Quincy Street in Kansas City, and our backyards adjoined each other. The sandbox was in our yard, and the swing set straddled the invisible line that divided our properties.

Our mothers, who soon became friends, saw the advantage of their two kids playing with each other while they chatted or took turns watching us. According to my mother, almost every time Mikey and I played in the sandbox, she would have to rescue me because he would inevitably grab my toy shovel or pail while refusing to let me touch his. I would wail in protest, and Mikey would scream and hurl sand at us as his mother tried to pry my toys away from him.

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