Sexual differences in the behavior of children have been studied from several angles. The most traditional are those studies carried out by Sears and Beller and Neubauer. These focused on children’s behavior, that which is observable and measurable and omitted childhood sexuality. The differences between boys and girls were studied for the level of aggressive behavior and dependency. According to Sears, boys consistently showed more physical aggression and negative behavior than girls did. In Sears’s study this difference in the level of aggressive behavior was detectable as early as age three. In Beller’s and Neubauer’s study, the difference in the amount of aggressive behavior was apparent between the ages of two and five. The problem with these and similar studies is that they reflect the cultural bias of the examiners and the different patterns of child-rearing practices used by parents according to the sex of the child. The same is true of those studies examining the difference between sexes with respect to dependency behavior. It is interesting that there is no appreciable difference in dependency behavior between sexes early in life, short of more negative attention-seeking behavior among boys (Sears), which Mischel attributes to boys’ greater physical aggression rather than to their psychological differences. As children’s ages increase, there is increasing incidence of dependent behavior in females (Beller and Turner; Beller and Neubauer).
With the advent of the women’s movement during the last few years and the more independent and assertive roles that women are assuming in Western cultures, the validity of these early-sixties studies has become more questionable. Abstract concepts defining masculine-feminine by dichotomies such as aggressive-friendly, rational-emotional, extroverted-introverted, are oversimplifications that attempt to reduce personal confusion and cultural anxieties (Michael and others). Aggressive or dependent behavior is complex and may express a variety of motivations, tendencies, and styles of adaptation.