Sex Differences in Psychological Adjustment from Infancy to 8 Years Academic Article uri icon


  • The objective of this study was to explore sex differences in development from infancy to 8 years of age in a community sample. Measures of biological, social, interactive, and parental functioning as well as teacher reports were obtained. There were minimal differences in infancy, but major psychosocial differences emerged with increasing age. In the biological sphere boys were disadvantaged only in ratings of language and motor skills at 3 to 4 years old. They showed greater temperamental "difficulty" and low persistence factor scores from 5 years onward. Boys were significantly more likely to have problems with adaptive behavior and social competence and to show behavior problems of the hyperactive and aggressive type, as rated by mothers. Parent and family functioning measures did not differentiate between the sexes. Teachers rated boys as having more problems in academic and behavioral domains the first 3 years of school. Path analyses combining data sets gathered when the children were 3 to 8 years old demonstrated the differential courses of development for boys and girls although temperamental flexibility was the best predictor of behavioral adjustment for both sexes. A social learning explanation of the increased incidence of problems among males is supported, although biological influences are not ruled out.

publication date

  • March 1993