It seems like many of the things we associate mostly with girls, and mostly with boys - may be inherently (literally!) true.
Studies seem to show that girls really do seem to talk before their male peers, and boys seem to walk before girls.
Added to that a boy's tendency to prefer action over faces and words, and a girl's preference for facial study and one-on-one conversation, and we may not just be stereotyping here.
There are many old wives tales that are blatantly false (think a full head of unborn baby hair causing heartburn) but many are based in fact.
Some of the findings for boys-
• They like motion. According to psychologists at the University of Cambridge in England, 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, you can guess which the tots picked. And it turns out that baby boys are more adept at keeping track of moving objects. Recent research shows that boys are about two months ahead of girls when it comes to figuring out the laws of motion (that if you roll a ball under a couch, say, it will take a few seconds to pop out on the other side).
• They've got the moves. You know that old saying, "Girls are talkers, boys are walkers"? Well, it's only half true. Girls do talk first, but boys are likely to start walking -- and hit all the major motor milestones -- around the same time as girls. It's easy to see how this misconception arose: Boys squirm, kick, and wiggle more than their female counterparts. To wit, according to new research, infant boys are more likely to end up in the ER for injuries. But all that activity does not pay off in meeting early childhood milestones any sooner. (Boys' gross motor skills do take off, however, during the preschool years, at which point they outpace their female peers in most measures of physical ability.) Parenting.com: Myths about learning to walk
• They're more emotional than you think. There is some evidence that boys tend to be more easily agitated than girls and have a harder time self-soothing. According to one study, even when 6-month-old boys appeared as calm as the girls in the face of frustration, measures of heart rate and breathing suggested that they were actually experiencing greater distress.
• They love a crowd. Boys prefer looking at groups of faces (future teammates, perhaps?) rather than individual ones. In fact, given the choice, newborn boys would rather look at a mobile than a single face.
• They're (comparatively) fearless. Boys express fear later than girls, and less often. According to a recent survey, the parents of boys ages 3 to 12 months were much less likely than the parents of girls the same age to report that their child startles in response to loud noises or stimuli. Another study revealed that when moms made a fearful face as their 12-month-olds approached a toy, the boys disregarded the mom and went for the plaything anyway. Girls slowed their approach.
And for girls -
• They're made to mimic. As early as three hours of age, girls excel at imitation, a precursor to back-and-forth interaction. In a study conducted last year, newborn girls did better than boys in trying to copy finger movements. As toddlers, girls zoom ahead of boys on imitative behaviors such as pretending to take care of a baby but, interestingly, are no different from little guys when it comes to pretending to drive a car or water the plants, actions that are much less about human interaction. Parenting.com: Brain-boosting games for babies
• They're good with their hands. Infant girls exceed boys when it comes to fine motor tasks, a head start that will stick with them until preschool. They're faster to manipulate toys; they use eating utensils sooner; and they write sooner (and more neatly), too.
• They may be better listeners. Recent research shows that girls are more attuned to the sound of human voices and seem to actually prefer the sound to other sounds. Shake a rattle and you'll see no difference between newborn girls and boys, but when you talk, the girls will be more likely to become engaged.
• They like face time. Girls are more likely to establish and maintain eye contact, and are attracted to individual faces -- especially women's. They're also more skilled at reading emotional expressions; if shown a frightening face, for example, they'll look at Mom or get distressed, but they'll be fine if they see a happy one. Boys take longer to notice the difference, according to a meta-analysis of 26 studies on kids' capacity to recognize facial expressions.
• They talk sooner. All that watching and listening pays off: Girls start using gestures like pointing or waving bye-bye earlier than their brothers, and they play games like patty-cake and So Big sooner, according to a study of children ages 8 to 30 months. Parenting.com: Ten essential baby milestones
Girls understand what you're saying before boys do, start speaking earlier (at around 12 months versus 13 to 14 months for boys), and will continue to talk more through the toddler years. At 16 months, they produce as many as 100 words, while the average boy utters closer to 30. Although girls remain somewhat ahead through toddlerhood, the gap does begin to narrow, and at 2 ½, both boys and girls have 500 words, more or less.
Now I must say that some of these are true in our home but some are just the opposite. Our pre-school girl has no fear (I wish she had!) and our preschool boy definitely looks before he leaps. Our boy is also writing and reading a lot faster.
Our girls, however, love lotions, make-up and hair brushing and our boy couldn't care less. Our girls are also more interested in what they wear than our boy. And true to the studies, he walked months before his sisters.
From an emotional aspect, our boy is just as emotional as his sisters.
So as many of these findings ring very true to us - some do not.
Do you notice an inherent difference between little boys and girls? Which stereotypes ring true, and which do not?
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