Apart from the obvious physical differences, what is the difference between men and women, and boys and girls?
Science has been studying the differences between men and women, and boys and girls, for years. Here are a few less obvious differences and a few that have perhaps been known for centuries.
Physical Differences Between Boys and Girls
Men are taller than women. According to statistics, an average man at five foot ten inches is taller than 99% of women. By majority, men are also stronger which has meant that for centuries they are the ones who have fulfilled the more physically demanding jobs, like a mechanic, construction worker, railway worker, foundry worker, and shipbuilder.
Women have smaller hands. What might not be so obvious is that smaller hands mean that nerve endings are closer together. This in turn implies that women have a more sensitive sense of touch. Studies have shown that women can better detect the nature of fabric by feeling it with their hands or thin grooves in a piece of plastic that had been pressed against their fingers (Wenner).
Differences Between Men and Women in Addiction
Women tend to have more eating disorders than men and are more prone to obesity. In studies, men were able to control their cravings better than women.
Women are more susceptible to addiction than men (Anthes). A research conducted in the US shows that the hormone estrogen spurs addiction by enhancing the high caused by drugs. When estrogen levels are low, women are far less susceptible to addiction. As the levels of estrogen rise and ebb with her menstrual cycle, so do the dangers of a woman becoming addicted to drugs, alcohol, or smoking.
Differences Between Boys and Girls in Their Character Predispositions
Although women have smaller brains, there are very few large scale differences in brain structure or function. Girls’ brains stop growing sooner.
Boys tend to be more active, while girls are more verbal. A Canadian study shows that boys tend to be more aggressive on the outside, while girls practice mental and emotional aggression instead. Both forms of aggression lessen after puberty.
Girls and women tend to be more empathetic, more ready to share their emotions, and with better awareness about their environment. The differences in empathy grow with age as girls develop stronger communication skills and stronger intimate friendships that often last for years (Eliot).
Perhaps surprisingly, baby boys cry more than baby girls. But as they come out of the infant stage, they tend to show fewer emotions. Perhaps this is caused by the pressure of their environment and the common belief that “men don’t cry.”
Differences Between Boys’ and Girls’ Skills
Females score higher in skills related to speaking, reading, writing, and spelling, while boys have a better spatial imagination. In studies, boys were able to mentally rotate objects better than 80% of the girls. Not surprisingly, more boys study engineering and architecture. The degree to which the way parents raise boys and girls may influence their developing brains is still an open debate among scientists (Higgins).
Regarding humor, when questioned, men had said that they wanted their partner to appreciate their jokes, whereas women wanted to be with someone who would be able to make them laugh (Nicholson). In 1996 Robert Provine, professor of psychology examined almost 4,000 personal ads in the US and noticed that women were looking for someone who would make them laugh twice as often as offering to do the same. Men offered to make the woman of his choice laugh a third more than requesting it.
No doubt in the coming years there will be more subtle differences and similarities between men and women, and between boys and girls that will be discovered and will throw further light on our understanding of the gender gap.
- Wenner, Melinda. “Women’s Better Sense of Touch Explained.” Scientific American. May/June, 2010.
- Welland, David. “Men Suppress Food Cravings Better Than Women.” Scientific American. May/June, 2010.
- Anthes, Emily. “She’s Hooked.” Scientific American. May/June, 2010.
- Eliot, Lise. “The Truth About Boys and Girls” Scientific American. May/June, 2010.
- Nicholson, Christie. “The Humor Gap”. Scientific American. May/June, 2010.
- Higgins, Edmund S. “The New Genetics of Mental Illness.” Scientific American. June/July 2008.