Nature vs. nurture will always be a nagging question in parents’ minds as they observe the development of their children’s personalities and tastes. It will plague some parents particularly, though, because despite their concerted efforts to introduce many choices to their children to try and get beyond pink princesses for girls and Tonka trucks for boys, they found that their children were still drawn to the stereotypical gender-specific toy choices.
A leading scientist in the field of what makes boys “boys” and girls “girls,” as well as being a bit of a rockstar in the research of autism, Simon Baron-Cohen confirmed, in an interview with the Huffington Post, that tests show that boys do, indeed, show more interest in games like Legos and girls are more interested in games that allow them to project emotions and thoughts onto dolls and act out social stories. It is this biological difference which may explain the fact that less that 20% of the technology industry’s workforce is female.
Baron-Cohen has developed a new model for characterizing gender differences that he calls the systemizing/empathizing theory. Systemizing “is the drive to build or analyze a system, which is simply anything that follows rules or patterns.” Like Legos. And empathizing is the drive to “identify (and respond to) someone else’s thoughts and feelings.” Like pretend play with dolls. He is quick to point out, however, that the minds of individuals should never be pre-judged by their sex and that parents should support their children’s interests, no matter what they are.
So why do more boys have a natural inclination toward systemizing than girls? Baron-Cohen has been studying research of the hormone testosterone and its levels in amniotic fluid and found that “Male foetuses produce ten times as much and animal research suggests this hormone influences the way the brain develops.” He has found that higher levels of testosterone lead to a child who is more likely to be interested in systems and less interested in empathy and people. He concludes by saying that more research is needed.
So what do you think? Are a child’s interests set in stone, or can they be molded by “nurture.” And if they can be molded by parenting, is it right to try to steer your child’s interests away from their natural ones and to something that interests you, as the parent, for example? Do parents still do that kind of thing or is everybody a perfect parent who always supports their child’s interests, even when they are very much against the grain?
© Melanie DeFazio – Fotolia.com
How do I raise my boy in this gender-conscious world?