The Battle of the Sexes: Which Sex Achieves Emotional Maturity Earlier?

battle of the sexes gender and brain development relationships Uncategorized wmotional maturity and gender

The battle of the sexes continues to rage on across societies and has taken many casualties over time. In Election 2016 many believe the preference for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton was driven by male preference mixed in with a significant dose of misogyny, as to whether this is true is a matter for debate.

The other day Jennifer Lopez made a comment about the fitness of men below 33 years for relationships and of course had all the youngsters screaming bloody murder. As a 40 something year old man who first tied the knot at age 33 years I had to ask myself this question “who told her this secret?”

On the issue of whether women achieve emotional maturity earlier than men I do not need to look far for an answer. I still wonder at the little girl at my son’s day care who is always in charge and pretty much telling everyone one what they need to do. That is not chance finding many studies have shown that the brains of men and women develop differently.

Illustration of the brain showing the amygdala, hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, parts of the brain reported to have significant differences in structure and development by sex

Most differences in the brain by sex are seen after puberty and are likely influenced by hormones. Functional MRI studies show that women have a lot more connections between the right and left side of the brain and may as a result be better at using multiple sources of information to come to a conclusion. This may be the root of the all mysterious women’s intuition, it may not be intuition at all just the brain doing its own thing in analyzing complex data. The truth though is that most of this may be happening without the persons knowing how the brain is handling all this data. Anyone who has dealt with women enough knows that usually if you ask a woman how she came by some of these conclusions they usually have a had time providing a logical explanation. This is often the source of many fights for most heterosexual couples, I can personally give testimony to that.

Physically though men’s brains are larger than that of women even after accounting for body size differences in the sexes.  The differences in brain size by sex has however not been shown to be associated with any differences in IQ by sex. Women however have relatively more grey matter than men and also have more in the hippocampus and the amygdala, regions of the brain controlling memory, language and emotions.  So my male friends; please beware, so that the quarrel over you not taking out the garbage does not evolve into another on how tacky the necklace you bought for her 6 years ago was. Please just apologize take out the garbage and end it, you would save yourself from unnecessary grief.

Male brains have more connections between the frontal cortex located in front where most complex decisions are made and the parietal and occipital cortex located at the back which control vision. Overall this is believed to give men an advantage in navigation, especially using maps.  Studies have shown that men are better at and the  moving complex objects in they mind. This may have helped men in activities that require visualization of abstract objects. Men may as such be more advantaged in air or sea navigation on account of these connections.

Neanderthal man; better connections between the frontal and posterior parts of the brain in men may have given them an advantage in hunting as well as navigating unfamiliar terrain.

There are several studies though that suggest that the prefrontal cortex a part of the brain that controls planning, sensation seeking behavior and impulsivity may develop and mature much later for both men and women. The exact time of the full development of the prefrontal cortex is the subject of much debate by neuroscientists. Whilst some believe full development occurs in the mid twenties for women with men achieving full development in the early thirties others quote a 11 year age difference. If we are to believe the later theory women only achieve full emotional development in their early thirties and men in the early 40s. Whilst scientists would continue to study and debate over these issues, men and women would just do what they know best enjoy their live’s whichever way they know best.

Personally, I love my days of immaturity and adventures, after all everyone knows what happens to our best plans. Life just takes over and all those well laid out plans are best forgotten or just become the source of unneeded stress.

By Dr. Leonard Sowah, an internal medicine physician in Baltimore, Maryland

Feature photo: “Ronald & Penny” by Bernice Sheppard is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 


A physician providing primary medical care to patients across the lifespan