• Question: What are the sex and age differences that show up in your research? Does the sex of the researcher affect the results?

    Asked by gertzerl17 to Mike, Matt, Geneviève, Gaia, Emma on 22 Jan 2018.
    • Photo: Mike Hobbiss

      Mike Hobbiss answered on 22 Jan 2018:


      Big question! Are there any particular ages or specific differences that you are interested in? Obviously there are huge changes over childhood and into adulthood. I mainly work on adolescence, for example, so could happily tell you more about that period if that’s what you are interested in!

      In general, the biggest sex difference that I am aware of for attention-related issues is ADHD, where about 3 times as many males and females are diagnosed. Other then that, though people have found some sex differences for certain specific things (e.g. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3295891/ or http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278262697908721), the sizes of the effects tend to be pretty small and the differences within groups (i.e. within males and within females) are usually much larger than the differences between them.

    • Photo: Emma Blakey

      Emma Blakey answered on 22 Jan 2018:


      Hi, thanks for your question. I study the development of children’s ability to control and regulate their behaviour and I’ve never found any differences between boys and girls in children aged 2 to 5. I’ve also never found that the sex of the experimenter or researcher affects the results. We do however see big age changes in this skill. Between the ages of 2 and 5 there are rapid developments in children’s ability to process information, control their response and respond with greater flexibility when children’s situation changes. These developmental changes are brought about by developments in brain regions supporting these skills and also developments in language and memory during this time.

    • Photo: Geneviève Allaire-Duquette

      Geneviève Allaire-Duquette answered on 23 Jan 2018:


      Thanks for your questions. Gender differences can be complex and I think they indeed warrant further exploration.

      All the research that I know of point towards the idea that there is more similarity than differences between boys and girls. The predominant message from synthesis of literature supports the argument of gender similarities. When differences are found, they are mostly small. However, some meta-analysis has found that girls have slightly higher score on attention and persistence (Else-Quest, Hyde, Goldsmith, & Hulle, 2006). It thus seems that girls can display a stronger ability to manage and regulate their attention.

      That being said, I believe an interesting area that remains less explored is the educational implications of these differences. Many characteristics that are attributed to gender are social constructs. Several studies have shown that there seem to be systematic differences in the ways boys and girls are raised and socialized. We could, therefore, be observing differences between genders that are not only the result of biological constraints but also of stereotypes and patterns that are culturally perpetuated. Many authors call for caution in translating these results into classroom approaches.

      Else-Quest, N. M., Hyde, J. S., Goldsmith, H. H., & Van Hulle, C. A. (2006). Gender differences in temperament: a meta-analysis. Psychological bulletin, 132(1), 33.

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