Boys v Girls

Taking an average group that comes to a PGL centre – a year 6 group of 30-40 kids – it is clear to see, in my mind, which gender is now the more outgoing – it’s the girls. When it comes to a climbing session, for instance, I now expect most of the girls to reach the top of whatever challenge they’re facing, while the boys will struggle. Boys complain more, are more likely to say they can’t do something and seem to have fewer ideas of how to climb up something. Meanwhile the girls just get on with it, taking each step as it comes, and listening to and following advice. They are more adventurous and are much easier to persuade to go higher or challenge themselves more, while the boys simply give up.
To be fair, girls are often more flexible and able to stretch themselves into positions that many boys cannot achieve, but boys generally have more strength, although they rarely seem to use it, preferring to say that their arms ache, and then lean back into their harness (which will make their arms ache more). Girls will also pick up the action of belaying (keeping the rope tight and secure) much more quickly.
               I must state that this is a generalisation and on their own certain boys can achieve things that most girls of that age would not, such as climbing the Jacob’s Ladder by themselves, a very difficult challenge and one that requires height, strength and a certain agility. In a group of 12 year-6 kids I had the other day, two boys managed this, however in the two groups of three girls that went together, both times two of the girls also reached the top through a mixture of teamwork, encouragement and determination, while none of the other boys made it past half way. I should also add that, from my observations, as they get older boys are more likely to give things a go and achieve more, while the girls become less enthusiastic, although I feel that has more to do with social reasons than because they’re physically incapable.

As I consider why this should be, that girls are now clearly the more outgoing, adventurous gender I have to look at influences and other leisure activities – namely: books, films and video games.

Books came first and originally if the protagonist was a boy, he was alone and adventurous, while a girl would have been part of a group. Equally in films boys were always off saving the world, while the girl was always the one who needed saving. This could well be because the early publishing and film industries were dominated by men, but of course all that has changed. Now we see books and films with strong, solo, female lead characters, while males often appear in groups. This mind-set might be a reason as to why the girls feel like they can push themselves further rather than give in to fear.
               So how about gaming, the most recent of the three mediums. I confess I don’t know a great deal about the industry, but it seems to me that at the moment it is dominated by men. Men make the games, pitch them at male audiences (how many games can you name with a lead female) and from my small observations I would say that a greater majority of gamers are male, though I have no statistics to back this up. I would guess, looking at what has happened with books and films, that females will start to play a greater role, but for the time being I suggest that at least for young people more boys than girls game, while girls are the more outgoing, sporty, social gender, a certainly with greater interests in climbing. Meanwhile the boys are starting to express more inner feelings, such as ‘I don’t want to do the zip wire, because I just don’t like the feeling, but I also don’t want my friends to see me go down the stairs and then talk about me’, and other such dilemmas.
               I’m not saying that all this is either good or bad, it’s merely an observation of the current state of British kids and the weird social switch that seems to be taking place, something that I’m sure has been going on for decades and will continue for many decades to come. Although I do wish the boys might buck themselves up a bit and stop complaining!


  1. Interesting observation! Was this just among year 6's? I wonder if it could be more related to maturity - that girls start to mature a little before boys, and so you're dealing with girls who are mature enough to just "get on with it", but haven't got so old that society has ingrained in them that it's un-lady-like to be bold and adventurous. Whereas the boys are still behaving a bit more like "children" (as opposed to "young people"). I would have thought that once they hit about 13-14, bravado and posturing would kick in and they'd be climbing over each other to prove themselves. But very interesting if that's not the case.

  2. No, not just year 6s at all, it starts earlier and is still noticeable in the older aged kids too, although to a lesser degree. I do think you're right that the girls mature quicker than the boys, but it surprises me that the boys take fewer risks, which I would have said was a common thing for young kids to do.

  3. Just read this, interesting observations. Fits with the fact that girls are as a group the higher achievers at school exams. But I would agree that probably 30 or more years ago social expectations of each gender were different and so I would expect they might behave differently in tackling pgl activities. Also interesting to see how groups from different nationalities would do!