Psychological Self-Help

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Since research gives us only a few hints about the causes of these
many changes in girls at puberty, we can only speculate (see Brown &
Gilligan, 1993; Orenstein, 1994; Nolen-Hoeksema & Girgus, 1994),
but it seems unlikely that genes and hormones cause females to be
smarter before puberty and dumber afterwards. I'm betting girls' self-
esteem, performance in math (see new data above) and science, and
career aspirations plummet because (1) parents and teachers give
boys more encouragement in these areas, (2) girls with fantastic looks
rate much higher with boys (and girls) than those with fantastic
smarts, and (3) high grades become associated with geeks. Thus, the
peer culture and attitudes also seem to share some responsibility for
crushing girls' spirit. There is no known evidence, yet, that unhappy or
psychological dysfunctional families are a major cause of these puberty
related deficits, although a child's general adjustment and happiness is
generally correlated with family adjustment. 
Informed parents can help their daughters (Eagle & Colman, 1993;
Debold, Wilson & Malave, 1994; Pipher, 1994) through this stressful
period, even though the causes--nature or nurture--for the problems
are not known for sure. Girls can help themselves too (Abner &
Villarosa, 1996). Considering the divorce rate, abuse rate, crime rate,
and the frequency of aggression and wars, one would think we
humans would demand research to clarify these fascinating and critical
aspects of our children's sex role development. See chapter 6 for a
discussion of why females, starting during adolescence, are twice as
depressed as males (sexual abuse by men may account for a
significant degree of the gender differences in depression). 
Differences between men and women in conversation
In my opinion, one of the most beneficial areas of research has
been the studies of conversations between males and females. In
brief, this research indicates that the young boy-girl interaction styles
described above continue for a life-time in our male-female
conversational styles. Men and women operate in two very different
social worlds. Men are in an ongoing contest, competing with everyone
by displaying their competence and skill. Why don't men ask for
directions when lost? Because it puts them in a you-know-more-than-
I-do position. Women are cautious but persistently seek intimacy; they
want emotional support, cooperation, and praise. Given these different
orientations, it is no wonder the sexes have trouble communicating! 
But if both sexes understand where the other is "coming from," the
conflicts can be reduced. Examples: a man can gain an understanding
of how his wife can love talking on and on to her female friends about
a problem and never receive any advice or criticism. The women are
interacting to get support, not solutions. Women can come to
understand why men shift the topic to something they did and/or
something they know about, rather than asking questions as a woman
would (asking questions might suggest the other person knows more).
Many men relish getting into lively arguments about politics, sports, or
a professional issue. Like boys at play, men are establishing their place
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