Such discrepancies are especially marked in childhood. One of the many, and perhaps most striking, paradoxes of gender studies is that, despite decades of concerted efforts, the very existence of sex differences remains debated  — . Thus, the magnitude, consistency and stability across time of between-sex differences remain questioned  ,  , . This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are properly credited. Females display more emotional expression and are more skilled at decoding others' emotions  ,  and understanding others' thoughts  — .
This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. As play provides an excellent window into children's social development, we investigated whether and how sex differences change in social play across early childhood. Results Developmental trends over the preschool years Children's social play showed important changes during the preschool period, becoming more peer-oriented and structured with age Fig. This developmental perspective contributes to resolve apparent discrepancies between single-snapshot studies. Preschool boys also display more solitary play than preschool girls, especially when young. From the age of 4—5 years, children's sociality changed abruptly, notably associative play predominated at 4—5 years and cooperative play predominated at 5—6 years. They were also observed more frequently interacting with adults than older children for whom this proximity became rare. Females are usually assumed to be more socially oriented and skilful than males. One of the many, and perhaps most striking, paradoxes of gender studies is that, despite decades of concerted efforts, the very existence of sex differences remains debated  — . Throughout childhood and adulthood, girls and women continue to be more socially expressive and responsive than age-matched males. We investigated whether girls show consistently more socially oriented and skilful forms of peer play and interactions than same-age boys from 2 to 6 years old, when most children begin to experience peer social interactions, or whether the sex difference changes as children grow older. Thus, the magnitude, consistency and stability across time of between-sex differences remain questioned  ,  , . The social profile of 3—4 year olds remained quite similar to that of 2—3 year olds, except that associative play became as frequent as solitary play and more frequent than parallel play. We found significant effects of age for all the social categories: Social and structured forms of play emerge systematically earlier in girls than in boys leading to subsequent sex differences in favor of girls at some ages, successively in associative play at 3—4 years, cooperative play at 4—5 years, and social interactions with peers at 5—6 years. Beyond a great heterogeneity in methodologies, whether studies found differences or not seems dependent on children's ages. Abstract Sex differences in human social behaviors and abilities have long been a question of public and scientific interest. We showed that sex differences are not stable over time evidencing a developmental gap between girls and boys. Received Jul 29; Accepted Dec Developmental studies are thus especially needed in order to go beyond the current debate. Our findings contribute to resolve the puzzling null or contradictory conclusions drawn from limited age-range samples or collapsed age-groups and raise important methodological issues such as the representativeness of samples in studies. Moreover, the magnitude, consistency and stability across time of the differences remain an open question, especially during childhood. Although the literature provides some empirical evidence, the picture is not as simple and univocal as described. Copyright Barbu et al. Here, we present evidence that sex differences are not stable over time.
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