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Boys and Girls – Nature vs. Nurture?


Children in a Classroom, Image from:

Years ago, I felt angry anytime people would say things like, “Boys will be boys,” excusing their rough behavior. I was raised during the sixties and seventies, when feminism was popular. I was convinced that there were not true innate differences, that there were mostly differences in rearing practices of the sexes.

Having been a teacher for nearly twenty years now, I have changed my opinion. I do think that generally speaking, most girls adapt more easily to school than most boys, because most girls find it easier to sit still and behave in the classroom. I no longer think it is because of child-rearing practices; I think there is a difference in their brains (and from what I hear it’s caused by hormones in the womb). Of course, every pregnancy is different, accounting for more aggressive girls and quieter boys. But generally speaking, I am coming around to seeing that some of the old stereotypes have some basis in fact. Years ago, I never would have imagined that I’d change my opinion on this issue.

I’m especially interested to know what Psychscribe thinks about this. What do the rest of you think?

Madame Monet


February 17, 2008 - Posted by | culture, life, men, Parents and Children, school, Vive le difference, women


  1. Hi Madame Monet,
    I too lived through the activist femist days… I believed it was ALL socialiation…now I think differently, I believe its about 1/2 genetics (but then again there is a continuum along that line) and 1/2 socialization…Research does definitively show that there are differences in the male and female brains…what I think we still need from feminism is to kick the butts of those who STILLthink males are superior!!!
    Warmly, Psychscribe

    Comment by psychscribe | February 17, 2008

  2. I never believed men are superior (or inferior, for that matter…) to women. Neither do I believe that women should push forward their masculin side or viceversa… I’m very pleased with our differences (and not only the “brutal, anatomical” differences) and I think that we can live quite well despite our differences… Only thing wrong: extremism (male chauvinism or female feminism, all the “isms” in fact… Puah!)

    Comment by iondanu | February 18, 2008

  3. There is a lot to be said for the smashing of the so-called “glass-ceiling” with regards to non-commensurate salaries for women in comparable jobs to men, but I wonder, what do the ladies here think about the role of women in the armed forces?
    I always remember the uproar at wimbledon over the big difference in prize money between the men and womens game. The argument always used to be that men play more sets, but does that argument really hold water? Regarding “boys will be boys” I believe it is almost entirely genetic, a throwback to the hunter-gatherer instinct, the need to be fierce and confrontational in the wild. I believe feminism went too far, and left many men emasculated, unsure of their role in this brave new world, and women may not benefit in the long run.

    Comment by kevmoore | February 18, 2008

  4. I agree with Danu about all the “isms”: PUAH!
    I agree that we can live very well together despite our differences, but I know too that most of the problems in the relationships are a result of these differences and the bad mutual understanding of men and women.
    I was living in Germany exactly as the women liberation movements began there, and I assisted to awful things with awful consequences, for the men at short term, for the women at longer term. Unfortunately the German are quite extremist and hysteric when they bound to defend a cause…
    In Spain the women liberation went too fast, with also unpleasant consequences.
    In France we hadn´t any problems with it, because the French women have always been quite “liberated”…
    And like Kevin I think the differences are almost entirely genetic. And it makes life and love VERY exciting!

    Comment by Miki | February 18, 2008

  5. Yes, miki, what boring life would that be without our little differences! (and I don,t speak only about those anatomical)

    But when I was a history student I’ve learned that a LOT of time in the history of human society, women were the dominant ones… maybe, 80-90 %?
    I wonder what traces this let in our genes?

    Comment by iondanu | February 18, 2008

  6. danu: i do remember studying that women were the dominant ones at certain times in history, but wasn’t that long long ago? all i can think of right now is the amazons…

    miki: i do agree that the differences do make love very exciting. don’t forget, i love an alpha male! (its just that he knows his place with me, hee hee!)

    kev: women in the armed forces? i don’t think so. women just are not as strong as men so i don’t think its fair to put fellow soldiers on the line in the interests of politically correct fairness to women.

    Comment by psychscribe | February 18, 2008

  7. psych, I agree, so feel it’s madness to have women serving to satisfy the bra-burning brigade. That’s not to say that I expect women to be chained to the kitchen sink (god knows, Miki needs a map to find the kitchen!!) – but there are more productive ways to use their talents in the forces – for example, the recognised greater manual dexterity of a women for small, fiddly tasks was utilised to great effect in the armaments factories during WW2. But before anyone says “with women in charge, there’d be less conflict” let me remind you all of Cleopatra , Boudicca (bodecia) and dare I say, Margaret Thatcher! 🙂

    Comment by kevmoore | February 18, 2008

  8. It is so uplifting to see someone changing its view about something after proofs. I also think there must be fundamental differences -( brain, hormonal, chemical, genetic, spiiritual, etc) -since we see those differences in the animal kindom at large.

    Comment by anangeli | February 18, 2008

  9. iondanu said:

    Neither do I believe that women should push forward their masculin side or viceversa…

    I THINK WOMEN DO AND SHOUDL DO THAT because there are instances when it is required. so must men do so when required.

    A woman raising her children alone must be to some extent masculine, bringing protection and security to her children, getting strength from qualities in the domain of the masculine spyche and viceversa for men raising children alone.

    Women IN the ARMY are required to have the aggressivenes of men, etc… Men in teaching and caring professions do not profi form having a macho and masculine attitude, on the contrary.

    I think that the lines are converginfg in the practical worlks and I hope that means that we can CHOOSE how to behave or that we DO SHARE those qualities and can call on tyhem as needed, Most “qualities”, maculine or feminine – are reinforced by our culture depending on the gender we were born with.

    Comment by anangeli | February 18, 2008

  10. Wow! How did this pregnancy thing get in here?

    Just to add one cultural/historical change here – there are now more girls in colleges than boys and my sons are finding that the majority of kids in their honors classes are girls. Of course we also have a woman running for president finally in the U.S. so maybe we’re catching up to some other parts of the world. When I was in school there was an unspoken pressure to hide your intelligence as a girl once you reached about 13. I believe that had a negative effect on my ambitions in the world of work, but that may just be an excuse!

    Comment by Susan Cornelis | February 19, 2008

  11. Good question, susan! I think somebody wants to take advantage of our on-its-way celebrity and advertise here! (but it’s good to know how to get – or not – pregnant)…

    On a more serious – even tragical note: did you heard about the Polytechnique Massacre in Montreal, some 15? years ago? (maybe more?) When a madman (I wonder why the proper term is “madman| and not madwoman?) did shot 14 students (women students), resenting exactly the situation you mention above? Which shows that feminism really did push some men buttons… (not mine, I LOVE women! didn’t said I love extreme feminist though…)

    Comment by iondanu | February 20, 2008

  12. OK, I got rid of that pregnancy comment–sorry it must have slipped by me in the comments approved on this post! It’s gone now….

    Madame Monet

    Comment by wpm1955 | February 22, 2008

  13. Interesting, I think its a mixture of both, a balance of nature’s inclinations and those little habits and thoughts instilled in you by your parents, surrounding peers etc, the lines are blurred.

    I know I hated pink, I always have, well not the pink kitsch barbie sort of stuff, as my parents didnt approve of that, and would buy me anything but the ”princessy stuff” and I’m glad it was that way, I never really yearned for it, instead my dad would buy me practical things like skipping ropes and complete libraries and libraries of 2nd hand books which I used to love reading, whereas my friends at the time were raised as little madam’s, they did all that barbie stuff, so did my big sister, I’ve seen photo’s of it, big parties wearing gowns and princess hats etc, and I’ve noticed that none of them now have any patience, they are very demanding and over-confident, and come across spoiled, whereas I find myself much more patient and can cope in less than savoury situations. Its little things like that in upbringing, and then of course some of it, is nature, it may not necessarily have anything to do with how bratty they were as children.

    Comment by supersizeme | February 22, 2008

  14. Ok, I’ve missed the point, and confused myself,
    but I’d like to say all this ”boys are little mischief-makers who cant sit still, and girls wear pigtails and sit like little madamoiselle’s” its a balance of both nature and nurture.
    The nurture side, is like parents dressing a newborn in blues if a boy and girls being dressed in pink’s, and the kind of toys they are given to play and the cooing like a baby boy being encouraged with ”yeah you’re a big strong boy”, and the baby girl is encouraged with ”my sweet little pwincess coochy coochy coo”, The nature element is disguised under it but certainly present.
    Wait, I’m saying it like its a bad thing.

    Comment by supersizeme | February 22, 2008

  15. instead of fighting for dominion and difference, shouldn’t we maximize our god given talents to good use? women striving in the economical world, i think it’s another trick, why would i perfect myself to strive in some game where the rules are set by other people, so that we are judge by other people that we are not competent, just because what we are good at is not appreciated by those people (ie people who cannot appreciate art says picasso is worthless). i feel like economy makes woman and all people jump through hoops!

    Comment by Anonymous | September 25, 2008

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