Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

Gender Differences in Adaptive Behavior among Children and Adolescents: Evidence from the USA

Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

Gender Differences in Adaptive Behavior among Children and Adolescents: Evidence from the USA

Article excerpt

Adaptive behavior refers to an individual's independent display of behaviors associated with meeting his/her daily personal and social needs, including behaviors expected in domestic and social environments (Oakland and Harrison, 2008). Adaptive behavior is an obvious and direct reflection of an individual's effective functioning and personal independence. Therefore, information on adaptive behavior often is intrinsic in any assessment of children and youth who are challenged by the demands of their environment (e.g., intellectually/developmentally disabled). Similar to intelligence, the ubiquity of adaptive behavior often means that it is taken for granted as an important explanative source of individual and group differences (Gottfredson, 1997). Most children with whom psychologists interact (e.g., autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disorder, and learning disability) display distinctive patterns and/or deficits in adaptive behavior (Ditterline et al., 2008).

The American Association on Mental Retardation (1992) promulgated a model of adaptive behavior, one adopted by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-4th Edition (American Psychiatric Association, 1994), which included nine skill areas for children and youth. These include communication, community use, functional academics, home and school living, health and safety, leisure, self-care, self-direction, and social skills. This model, which is endorsed by psychologists, professional organizations, and policy makers, provides a framework for our current understanding of adaptive behavior and skills.

Adaptive behaviors include a cluster of behaviors people are expected to display independently each day. These behaviors constitute the building blocks needed for personal independence and socialization, including their need to lead a normal and rewarding life at home, school, work, and the community. Thus, they are described as functional and authentic life activities (Bagnato, Neisworth and Pretti-Frontczak, 2010). Children, youth, and adults whohave various special needs frequently display deficits in one or more functional adaptive behaviors, prompting providers of special education and rehabilitation to target adaptive skills as the focus of restoration (Ditterline and Oakland, 2009).

Previous Research on Gender and Adaptive Behavior

Surprisingly, researchers have made relatively few efforts to investigate possible gender differences in the adaptive behaviors of children and adolescents. However, the available extant research generally indicates that females display more developed adaptive behaviors than their same-age male peers. Gender differences in communication skills are commonplace (Bornstein et al., 2005), with females typically displaying a larger vocabulary and more complex language than males (Halpern, 2012; Hyde and Linn, 1988). Related research finds that girls display higher academic achievement and attainment (Kelm et al., 2013; Robelen, 2013; Stetser and Stillwell, 2014). Gender differences are noted in domestic skills as well, with parents and teachers reporting that females demonstrate home living skills more frequently than males (e.g., cleaning and organization).

Regardless of age, males tend to spend more time in physical activities (e.g., sports), and to engage in a more narrow range of leisure activities (Eccles et al., 2003; King et al., 2007). The early acquisition and independent display of daily self-care routines have a life-long impact (Barnes, 1991; Soller and Mann, 2014). Females tend to display higher self-care skills than males, albeit with small effect sizes (Boney, 2002). Regarding the basics of self-direction, females tend to perform significantly better than males in problem-solving tasks and in activities that require switching cognitive strategies in response to environmental changes (Kalkut et al., 2009). However, no significant gender differences were reported in meta-cognition (e. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.