According to New York Times science writer Gilbert, there are indeed natural differences between boys and girls, and giving Sally all the Tonka trucks in the world (or sticking Joey with the Barbies) won’t change them. They begin even before birth: women having their first baby are likely to spend 90 more minutes in labor with a son than with a daughter. Baby girls seem to be calmer and cry less, and they seem to be more social, than boys. Boys are more physically active than girls, which Gilbert claims may explain why their metabolisms are higher. Girls are more likely to form close friendships, while boys are more inclined to look to peer groups for approval. The author unveils a few surprises: for the first six months of life, boys and girls are equally emotional, and from six months to six years, boys are more emotionally expressive than girls. Gilbert urges parents to “avoid coercive discipline,” to urge their sons to be nurturing, to give boys non-aggressive male role models, and to limit both sons’ and daughters’ exposure to violence.
Most parents will be grateful for Gilbert’s insights, although they will hardly come as revelations.