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Do Gender Differences Exist in Infancy? Where Do the Differences Come From?

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Fetuses of most vertebrate species are behaviorally active before birth. This is illustrated every day with ultrasounds at doctor visits, or when an individual feels an infant move inside of the womb. Historically, spontaneous leg movements were thought to have been random and reflexive in nature (Heathcock, Bhat, Lobo, & Galloway, 2005). More recently, however, researchers have suggested that movements in early infancy play an important role in motor learning and motor skill acquisition later in life (Heathcock et al., 2005). Modern technology for observing fetal behavior has revealed that a fetus has a large and complex repertoire of movement patterns that emerge 7-8 weeks after conception and expand rapidly during the following weeks (Giganti et al., 2001). At around 2–3 months of age, the spontaneous movement patterns change into small movements at moderate speed and variable accelerations, eventually becoming scooting, crawling, and walking (Kanemaru, Watanabe, & Taga, 2012). Because there appears to be a connection between intra and extra uterine kicking with coordinated motor activity later in life, it is possible that this association may shed light on why differences in motor abilities exist among toddlers and children later on.
Every day we see boys and girls of all ages excelling at different activities. For example, early on in development boys and girls tend to play different sports and choose different activities to take part in. As they get older, these differences increase, and boys tend to outperform girls on various tasks—many of which include motor coordination. Because these differences exist later on in life, it leads to the question of why. And where do these differences come from? There is litt...


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...ers have emphasized examination and intervention during the early months of life. The data in similar studies provide information that can help physical therapists understand the complex connection between spontaneous kicking movement and the development of initial functions (Suh-Fang Jeng, Li-Chiou Chen, Kuo-Inn Tsou, Chen, & Hong-Ji Luo, 2004). This connection is of current importance because of the increasing number of preterm infants seen clinically, coupled with the overall goal of offering developmentally appropriate intervention as early as possible (Suh-Fang Jeng et al., 2004). Between the inconsistencies in findings for gender and leg extensions, as well as the value in understanding the root of gender differences later in life, future research is needed to clarify these contradictory results, and to improve upon the limitations present in this research.


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