Regardless of the century or the culture, boys were always at greater risk of having problems than us girls. It's a genetic thing for the most part.
- Boys are 5 times more likely to have autism than girls.
- Boys are diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder two-to-three times more frequently than girls
- Girls and boys have about the same frequency of learning disabilities, but boys make up 2/3 of the students in special education classes for students with learning disabilities.
The first story is with genes. Women offer only the X chromosome toward their child's gender while men actually determine the gender of their child by contributing either the X or the Y chromosome.
Girls have two X's like the blue chromosomes pictured above. Boys have XY chromosomes. Notice the orange Y chromosome above. The X chromosome has 4 "arms" while the Y has 3 and herein lies the problem.
It seems that the extra "arm" on the X chromosome provides some protection against sex-linked genetic abnormalities. Sex-linked means that the problems are associated with either the X or Y chromosome. Since females have two Xs, we are better able to protect ourselves against many genetic conditions.
The second story is about the development of boys in the womb. Gender is determined at the moment of conception. Essentially, the child's development continues smoothly until 6 weeks of age which is the blastocyst level. A blastocyst can fit on the head of a pin. At that time, if the baby was determined to be male at conception, male hormones begin to bathe the blastocyst in order to create the male brain. The male brain is structurally different from the female brain and those differences begin at about 6 weeks with the introduction of male hormones. Every brain is female until that time.
When I explain this process to parents, I present a metaphor of finding a new address for the first time. You might overshoot a street and have to back up, turn around, make a U-turn or get off at the next exit and retrace your steps. This kind of "correction" is not allowed in brain development. If a mistake is made in creating the male brain, the mistakes continue to compound. A "missed turn" early in the development can lead to catastrophic consequences with severe developmental disabilities.
The third story is one of size. Boys tend to be larger and more difficult to deliver without complications. In this examiner's experience of 23 years in private practice, many mothers of those boys with developmental disabilities were allowed to labor for far longer than was safe for baby. The pressure in the birth canal is intense and pressure on baby's brain can be responsible for language processing disorders and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and other learning disabilities.
The fourth story is one of understanding and tolerance. In this age of hours upon hours of sitting in classrooms, the all-consuming focus on education, jam-packed after-school and weekend schedules of sports and activities, there's no room for both boys and girls to explore the natural world and figure out who they are or to develop basic competencies. There are likely to be many incidences where a boy's personality is diagnosed as some type of psychopathology.
Boys actually may not be ready to learn until the age of 7, but by the age of 7, many are in second grade. Girls' brains mature more quickly; we have strong language and executive functioning skills (planning, organizing, mental control) and have more well-developed social skills than boys until about the age of middle school. We girls are set up for academic and social success!