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- Yaqin Albirawi
This paper explores the discoveries concerning gender differences in human development. All research framework has been gathered from reliable sources that base their data on statistics and scientific findings. The main objective of this report is to indicate how males and females tend to differ greatly in their brain, cognitive, social-emotional, and moral development. Brain differences across genders occur as early as prior to birth, for male fetuses have a thicker right hemisphere as female fetuses. Scientists have also discovered male brains to be generally larger, but less symmetrical than female brains. In the very first days of life, a girl’s left hemisphere responds quicker to verbal sounds. In addition, even later in life, verbal IQ tests point out that girls are at a more verbal advantage, whereas boys are more skilled in visual and spatial abilities. Many believe this superiority is associated with levels of testosterone, a hormone known to be found in higher levels in males. Hormones found in men and women also have a great impact on their social-emotional development. Females are thought to be more emotional than men, however, males are as emotional. To be more accurate, each sex tends to process mental states in a different manner. Lastly, this report will cover how rules incorporated in a boys’ and girls’ games affect their moral reasoning later in life, causing boys to lean towards law and justice while girls leaning towards empathy and relations. For further research, this subject matter aims to call into question the methods of how individuals may parent, educate, and support their children using advantages their daughter or son’s brain may provide in order to succeed in their present environment.
Amidst the advancement of today’s technological innovations, researchers around the world were able to reveal nearly 100 major differences between male and female brains (Jantz, 2014, p. 2). Acknowledging these differences may “help you to understand how to best use the advantages your brain provides, what to be aware of around the disadvantages, and how to make changes that will enhance your ability to succeed in your present environment” (O’Brien, 2007, p. 4). Gender differences can be tremendously visible and viewed from various points, however, the discoveries encountered exceed past what the eye can see. Having said that, males and females tend to differ greatly in their brain, cognitive, social-emotional, and moral development.
Gender Differences in Brain Development
The brain of males and females differs in its structure, function and the method of processing information. These differences initiate prior to birth, for male and female brains distribute tasks to each hemisphere in a dissimilar arrangement (Jantz, 2014, p. 2). Considering this information, research has revealed that boys lean towards having a thicker right hemisphere as early as they are fetuses (Eliot, 1999, p. 434). The most evident dissimilarity found in the brain across genders is the overall size. Generally, the human brain tends to be 8% larger in males than females (Eliot, 1999, pp. 431-432), nonetheless, females have a noticeably larger hippocampus and splenium of the corpus callosum (Jantz, 2014, p. 2) (Eliot, 1999, p. 432). White and grey matter, tissues of the brain and spinal cord, are also used in different amounts across genders; male brains apply seven times more gray matter in their activities, whereas female brains make use of approximately ten times more white matter, which is due to more blood flow in female brains (Jantz, 2014, pp. 1-2). Although identical in makeup, the level of neurochemicals managed in human brains varies between sexes as well (Jantz, 2014, p. 1). It is also said to be that women’s brains are more symmetrical than men’s (Eliot, 1999, p. 432). Correspondingly, women tend to be at an advantage when it comes to linguistic skills because although verbal centers are commonly found in the left hemisphere, women generally have them on the right hemisphere as well (Jantz, 2014, p. 2). This cognitive ability, alongside others, is stated to be due to the dissimilar process in which the brains of men and women are wired.
Gender Differences in Cognitive Development
Owing to the fact that the sequence of development of the various brain regions differs in males and females, this aspect also affects various points related to cognitive development. In the initial days after birth, a girl’s left hemisphere is quicker to respond to verbal sounds than a boy’s (Eliot, 1999, p. 434). Later in life, women continue to clinch on to this quick response as they are quicker at alternating between tasks (Jantz, 2014, p. 1). Assessments have shown that females tend to attain a higher level in matching items and recalling details after reading paragraphs and stories better than males do (Kimura, 1999, p. 2). Additionally, verbal IQ tests indicate that girls are expected to be more advanced in linguistic abilities, whereas boys are more advantageous when it comes to visual and spatial tasks, such as mental rotation, navigation, mathematics, and science (Eliot, 1999, p. 430). Given these spatial and strengthened motor skills, men throughout evolution were chosen to hunt animals successfully as women spent most of their time nursing and caring for their children, thus enhancing their linguistic skills (Eliot, 1999, p. 431). Females may also excel in this field because they have more operative communication between both hemispheres, this enables them to involve both sides of their brain to the same degree for many types of activities (Eliot, 1999, p. 432). Visual-spatial coordination is increased in boys through their engagement in activities, such as pushing trucks around and kicking soccer balls. Whereas playing with dolls increases a girl’s verbal skills through social interaction sorts of pretense play (Eliot, 1999, p. 433). However, the causes of these differences in cognitive development do not end here. Visual-spatial abilities are also associated with levels of testosterone found in each sex. Poor ability is caused by very high or low levels of testosterone. Therefore, women with high testosterone levels and men with low testosterone levels do best on tests linked with visual-spatial abilities. This phase occurs in women before their ovulation, whereas it arises in men during the spring (Wade, n.d., p. 4). These testosterone levels and the abilities covered may not only demonstrate a difference in cognitive development, but also provide purpose to how one deals with society and emotions surrounding their environment.
Gender Differences in Social-Emotional Development
An evident gender difference recognized by many societies around the world is the social-emotional developmental aspect in both men and women. Many believe that females tend to be more emotional than males, however, studies have discovered that emotional instability not only occurs in women, but also in men at equivalent levels (Wade, n.d., p. 4). Given that girls are more verbally emotive and use the right and left hemispheres of their brains when reacting to emotional events, they are capable of describing their feelings at a more advanced level than boys, giving them an impression of being more sensitive (McBride, n.d., p. 3) (O’Brien, 2007, p. 3). On the other hand, throughout the process of analyzing emotive memory, men may unintentionally move on to other tasks that are unlinked to feelings, making it seem as though they are avoiding their emotions (Jantz, 2014, p. 2). Relating back to an earlier topic, male and female bodies contain the same hormones, but in different amounts. That being said, men have more amounts of androgens while women have more amounts of estrogen hormones (Wade, n.d., p. 2). Relatively, women’s moods and choice of partners relates to hormones that manage their menstrual cycles (Wade, n.d., p. 4). Women with high estrogen levels have a tendency to be involved in peaceful relationships and upholding connections. Serotonin, a neurochemical that is responsible for one’s sense of calmness, desires and aggression levels, is discovered to be 30% more present in women than in men, which may also contribute to the peaceful relations some women may maintain (O’Brien, 2007, p. 4). However, aggression and sex drive are due to testosterone, an androgen hormone, which is found higher in level in men (Wade, n.d., p. 3). Testosterone in a teenage boy’s body also causes him the desire to be left alone and reduce any type of social activity, with the exception of sex and sports (O’Brien, 2007, p. 1). Due to how males process testosterone, they tend to be more impulsive, competitive, aggressive, and need different methods than girls to relief stress (Jantz, 2014, p. 2). However, statistics have also presented that women tend to be four times more anxious than men (O’Brien, 2007, p. 3). Therefore, when faced with anxiety, stress or fear, women tend to stick together by maintaining their social connection as a way of sponsoring a sense of safety (O’Brien, 2007, p. 1). As indicated, many of these social-emotional points are noted to be commonly different across women and men due to convincing developmental causes.
Gender Differences in Moral Development
One development difference that may not be as noticeable as the preceding matter is females and males’ moral reasoning. Kohlberg’s moral development theory states that moral reasoning is concerned with justice and consists of six developmental stages that are placed into three levels: pre-conventional morality, conventional morality, and post-conventional morality (HHG notes, 2014). By means of this theory, women are unlikely to be present at the sixth stage, generally fixed in stage three, where a person’s moral reasoning is governed by pleasing others in the society. During childhood, games played by males usually contain rules, which lead them to be more concerned with authorized rules and reasonable techniques when resolving any arguments and fights in the future. As for girls, it is more probable for them to end a game rather than continue it, for their relationships are more important to them. Unlike men and their rules, women base their moral reasoning and resolve moral dilemmas by relating their problems to their relation with the person, and giving thought to who will be least hurt in the process (Travis, 1982, p. 1). Correspondingly, Carol Gilligan, another theorists, states that females may reflect upon care, relationships, and connections, rather than justice and law, in their moral reasoning when faced with a moral dilemma (Donenberg & Hoffman, 1988, p. 1). Gilligan found that women are placed at a lower level on Kohlberg’s scale than men because they put themselves in the place of the other person and account for the relation they have with that individual. On the other hand, men place higher because they detach themselves from society, making the process of relating to the dilemma that much easier (Donenberg & Hoffman, 1988, p. 2). This is further proved when relating moral thinking to sexual behaviour and the outcome of it. For example, research states that when having sex, women think about the aftermath while men focus on the activity itself. One may be able to indicate that females tend to believe that social hierarchies will ruin relationships, while males believe it will build them (McBride, n.d., p. 3). As a result, men and women seem to grow unalike when approaching a moral dilemma.
As with every other aspect of human development, researchers have proven many concrete and perceived differences across genders provided by variances found in their brain, cognitive, social-emotional, and moral development. The structure, function, and method of processing information are three of the many dissimilarities found in brains of men and women. On account of these differences, numerous cognitive ability variances, such as verbal skills favouring women and motor skills favouring men, arise. In addition, this verbal superiority reasons why many individuals believe that women tend to have an edge over men when regarding self-awareness, emotions, and empathy toward others. Consequently, unlike men, rather than forming their reasons by referring to the law, women tend to reflect upon social relations and connections. Therefore, “understanding gender differences from a neurological perspective not only opens the door to greater appreciation of the different genders, it also calls into question how we parent, educate, and support our children from a young age” (Jantz, 2014, p. 2).
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Eliot, L. (1999). What’s going on in there? How the brain and mind develop in the first five years of life. United States: Bantam Books.
Jantz, G. L. (2014, February 27). Brain differences between genders. Psychology Today. Retrieved from www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hope-relationships/201402/brain-differences-between-genders
Kimura, D. (1999). Sex differences in the brain. Scientific America. Retrieved from http://www.ucd.ie/artspgs/langimp/genderbrain.pdf
McBride, W. (n.d.). Boys will be boys, girls will be girls. Center for Recruitment and Retention of Mathematics Teachers. Retrieved from http://crr.math.arizona.edu/GenderKeynote.pdf
O’Brien, G. (2007, Fall). Understanding ourselves: Gender differences in the brain. Columbia Consultancy. Retrieved from http://www.columbiaconsult.com/pubs/v52_fall07.html
Travis, C. (1982, May 2). Women and men and morality. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/1982/05/02/books/women-and-men-and-morality.html
Wade, L. (n.d.). The new science of sex differences. WordPress. Retrieved from http://lisawadedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/wade-forthcoming-the-new-science-of-sex-differences.pdf
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