Brain differences in boys and girls

JoAnn Deak, PhD, explains the differences in brains between boys and girls at six-seeks old and how the differences effect them
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Brain differences in boys and girls

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Yesterday I was doing a workshop with a group of teachers, and one of the questions was: Are girl brains and boy brains different? And the answer is definitively yes, and really startling information about that. I often show a video of six-week old babies. When you're six-weeks old, you don't know what's below your neck, you don't know if you're a boy or a girl; so you haven't been shaped yet. And when we brain image babies, we see for instance when you talk to a baby girl, two sides of her brain light up. Those are the language reception areas, one on the left and one on the right. When you talk to a baby boy, only the right side lights up; that's the language reception area for a boy. So whether we're talking about language or feelings or organization or judgment, both boys and girls have those in their brain, but they're wired differently and they work somewhat differently. And understanding that is one of the key areas for research but also for parents to understand and for teachers. If you have a boy and a girl, in general there will be significant differences. The interesting part is not all boys are the same and not all girls are the same; there's kind of a cross-over, what I call 20 percenters. 20% of girls are more of a mush. They might have some characteristics like more aggressiveness of some boys. 20% of boys are more of a mush. They might be a little more talkative than some boys and more like in what we call a girl paradigm. So we have to be careful. When I talk to parents, I don't just ask whether you have a boy or girl; we talk about that there are 80 percenters and 20 percenters. And knowing what your child is is very important because the 20 percenter will be slightly different from the 80 percenter, and then you have different expectations and different ways of dealing with them.

JoAnn Deak, PhD, explains the differences in brains between boys and girls at six-seeks old and how the differences effect them

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JoAnn Deak, PhD

Psychologist & Author

JoAnn Deak, PhD, has spent more than 30 years as an educator and psychologist, helping children develop into confident and competent adults. The latter half of that period has also focused on working with adults, parents and teachers in their roles as guides or ‘neurosculptors’ of children. On her website is a quote that best describes her perspective on her work: “every interaction a child has, during the course of a day, influences the adult that child will become.”

Parents and educators at schools from New York to Hawaii, as well as such organizations as the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Independent Schools, the Association of International Schools, the American Montessori Society and the International Baccalaureate Association, have heralded Dr. Deak’s ability to demystify complex issues of child development, learning, identify formation and brain research.

Dr. Deak has been an advisor to Outward Bound, a past chair of the National Committee for Girls and Women in Independent Schools, on the advisory board for the Center on Research for Girls (Laurel School), for the Seattle Girls’ School, Bromley Brook School, the Red Oak School, Power Play and GOAL. She consults with organizations and schools across the United States. Most recently, she has worked internationally with schools, organizations, associations and parent groups in every continent (except Antarctica!) She has been awarded the Woman of Achievement Award by the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools, was given the first Female Educator of the Year Award by Orchard House School, and the Outstanding Partner for Girls Award from Clemson University. She has been named the Visiting Scholar in New Zealand, the Visiting Scholar for Montessori Children’s House and has been the Resident Scholar for the Gardner Carney Leadership Institute in Colorado Springs for the past five years.

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