It has always been said that women mature before men. And the truth is that generally the female sex tends to develop earlier, starting the changes inherent in puberty between the ages of ten and twelve in women while men start to notice it, usually between the ages of twelve and fifteen. .
This fact can be observed at the physical level, but also at the level of mental maturity. Why does this fact happen? Why do girls mature earlier than boys? To answer this question, let’s start with the most basic.
What do we mean by maturity?
Faced with a better understanding of the subject to be covered, it may be useful to specify which element we are referring to exactly when we speak of maturity.
The term maturity refers to when a person or object has reached its maximum level of development. It generally tends to be related to time and age. When most people say that one person is more or less mature than the other, they tend to refer to their behavior or the way they act or react to situations.
A mature person is able to manage himself, to take responsibility for his actions, Adopt different perspectives, be critical of both the world and yourself, and be able to adapt to situations and respond to the demands of reality.
Maturity is achieved largely through the experiences that everyone has throughout their development, while this development also largely depends on the biological aspects that allow it. Being mature therefore depends to a large extent on the development of our brain.
A brief introduction to brain development
Our nervous system is a set of elements of great importance for our survival from the moment we are born. But it is not a system that remains unchanged, but changes and changes are manifested throughout our development.
At birth, we have a large number of neurons, But are generally poorly connected to each other, with relatively few existing synapses. From this point on and for much of our childhood, our brains are immersed in a process of constant neurogenesis, multiplying the number of neurons and making connections between them. This allows us to have much greater learning potential and brain plasticity than at other times in our life.
In this period of development, males and females have an equal number of neurons and show similar development in terms of maturity level.
As we live, experience, move and pay attention to what is around us and what we do and think, our body strengthens the most used synapses and strengthening the connection between groups and neural fibers. Different areas, such as the frontal cortex, mature and develop more and more. But there is a point throughout development when neurogenesis stagnates and a large number of neurons begin to die. This is the neuronal size.
The so-called neuronal size or synaptic size is one a biological process that occurs mainly during adolescence in which a large part of the neurons in our nervous system degrade and die.
While apparently the fact that a large number of neurons degrade and die may seem negative, the truth is that this fact serves a very important function. More precisely performs the function of optimizing the functioning of our brain eliminating these connections that we hardly use, allowing greater efficiency of the different mental processes that have proved useful for the subject during his growth.
This way, our brain gets rid of those connections that we don’t use or that offer redundant information. The brain is reorganized so that the most used connections survive and be allows the processing and integration of information it becomes more and more efficient, spends less mental resources and can therefore better invest the ones we have.
And in this neuronal size is the main reason that females usually show up maturity earlier than its male counterpart. Several studies show that the neural pruning process begins early in women, allowing them to optimize their neural networks and, in many cases, achieve mental maturity.
One of the main reasons for this fact can be found in hormones. While in men, sex hormones are seen in the early stages of development then stagnate until the onset of pubertyIn women, the hormonal cycle and estrogen secretion are stable and continuous throughout the developmental period. This allows an acceleration of the time of puberty.
The effect of the environment
The various studies carried out show that as a general rule, women mature before men. Thus, they generally develop certain cognitive and emotional capacities earlier, especially in adolescence and young adulthood.
It should also be borne in mind that social expectations and gender roles have a powerful effect on the way we act. Traditionally, gender roles have fact that man has been educated in a way which tends to promote competitiveness and individuality while the woman received an education focused on caring for others, self-management and preservation.
This can cause them to consider different aspects when taking action, which leads to different degrees of maturity. However, this effect diminishes as the typical roles fade.
But this does not necessarily imply greater maturity on the part of the female sex. And it is that although this tendency exists, it must be considered that the level of maturity largely depends on the conditions in which we grow up, External stimulation and what we experience throughout our life. An environment that promotes maturity or infantilizes subjects can allow both men and women to face situations more or less effectively and to achieve different degrees of maturity at the same age.
- Lim, S .; Han, CE; Uhlhaas and Kaiser, M. (2015). Preferential detachment during human brain development: age and gender specific structural connectivity to diffusion tensor image data. Cerebral cortex, 25; 1477-1489.