Growing up I made many efforts not to act like a "typical boy" (examples: I'd walk away whenever cars were discussed and still don't know how an engine works; and I absolutely refused to play violent video games, much to my friend Todd's chagrin.) But I'm still a man and that shapes me in many ways. So I'd hoped that today's talk would be interesting and educational, and it was! Plus, it was fun to tell people I was going to a talk on the "Male Brain," in order to receive rejoinders like "don't you already have one of those?"
Here are some interesting facts, arranged--as is the book--from the beginning of life to adulthood. Obviously these are generalizations, but the research base supporting this work is impressive:
- Boys (and girls) go through a period of "infantile puberty." For boys this means mega-loads of testosterone until nine months, for girls gushers of estrogen until 24 months.
- By 3.5 years of age girls are far ahead of boys verbally, and it becomes hard for the two genders to play games with each other. Boys prefer much more competitive games, which is no surprise. But one reason may be that they have trouble verbalizing what they want, which means that games that rely on negotiation and cooperation come harder.
- By 6 years of age any boy that still likes "girly things" is likely to be subject to ridicule from his fellows. I'm not sure, but I think is around the age when I decided to actively resist "boy-ly things." I was fortunate not to be ridiculed by my fellows; the teasing was always gentle. I'm not sure why this was the case.
- Puberty is hard on boys and girls, for different reasons. Girls are often embarrassed by their new figures, boys are awkward and shy when it comes to the dating dance. Dr. Brizendine spoke of her greater compassion for what boys go through in puberty, as a result of researching this book. It also helped that she's raised a teenage son who is now 20.
- "The Daddy Brain": This was my favorite part of the talk, as Dr. Brizendine explained the ways men and societies react to fatherhood. To wit:
- During a woman's pregnancy, a man's testosterone levels decrease significantly, while his production of prolactin (the hormone that makes breast milk in women) increases. Weird.
- "Father/infant synchrony" is best achieved by giving daddy alone time with the baby in the first six weeks of life.
- Germany offers 14 months of paternity leave! Besides that, "daddy's day" is a common European tradition in which men take care of the kids on Fridays.
Dr. Brizendine got this far in the life cycle before stopping to take questions. Guess I'll have to read the book to figure out what to look forward to as I get old!