In 1992, American author John Gray published his famous book Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus. In the book, Gray postulated that men and women have such fundamental psychological differences that relationships between the two sexes were bound to be riddled with challenges. In his informed assessment, he determined that the two sexes were so different that they might as well have come from different planets. Gray holds a degree in meditation and has taken a correspondence course in psychology.
While the idea that men and women may be from different planets is highly unlikely, the incompatibility of the two sexes is undeniable, especially for members of the same age group. The behavioral and psychological differences between men and women in the same age groups are so glaring that they may as well have grown in different societies. Often, women have more focus in life, and their priorities are better thought. So is it true that men mature slower than women?
For 27-year-old Pamela Murugi it’s a no-brainer. The professional voice instructor remembers a time she dated a man two years her senior. Despite the two year age difference, she felt that they were at different stages in their lives. “We just could never discuss real issues in our lives and our relationship. Yeah we had lots of fun and talked about general stuff, but we never really talked about our future,” Says Pamela.
Inevitably, that relationship ended. While such an ending may be sad for Pamela and her ex-boyfriend, it is not uncommon. Most intimate relationships between men and women in the same age group often fail. More often than not, such couples find that they are incompatible, not because they do not feel affection for each other, but because they have different priorities and different outlooks to life. In most instances, it is the women who feel that their age-mates of the opposite sex are lagging.
“Girls grow faster than boys, both physically and mentally,” says Mr. John Simiyu, a teacher in Bishop Ndingi Mixed High School in Machakos County. After fifteen years in the noble profession, eleven of which have been spent in mixed high schools, Mr. Simiyu has somewhat become an authority on the developmental differences between boys and girls.
“Even at a young age, girls seem to develop a greater sense of responsibility than boys,” he says. “Take the homestead for instance. The girls will in most cases take care greater care of their younger siblings and other children in the compound, unlike the boys.”
Mr. Simiyu has been a keen observer of the behavioral differences between high school boys and girls. He says that when they join form one, all kids are confused and scared. It is difficult to discern the individual behavioral tendencies of each child or those of the different sexes. However, as they settle in and become accustomed to their new environment, the differences begin to manifest. While the boys often remain stuck in a phase where play and mischief still take a considerable part of their time and thoughts, the girls seem to settle down and concentrate on different things. They substitute playtime for reading novels and just talking in groups. Girls are also more conscious of their hygiene, compared to boys.
A similar sentiment is held by Pamela Murugi. Even among her friends, she notices major differences between the ladies and the men. At 27, most of her friends are college graduates and professionals in different fields. A good number of them are employed while others are either looking for employment or self-employed.
“There is a great difference between the guys and the girls,” Pamela says. “When the girls get employed or establish a reliable source of income, they start thinking of settling down, and many explore different options to better their lives.” She says that some of her female friends have started blogs, others small businesses while yet others pursue different passions such as music and art on a professional level. The men, however, seem more concerned with having a good time. They care more about partying and following sports events such as the football leagues.
“I mean, it’s okay to have fun sometimes, but fun should not define you. But men rarely ever think of the consequences of their actions. It is no surprise that they are the ones more involved in betting and gambling. Rather than investing and making sound financial decisions, most of my male acquaintances seem to chase after quick gratification,” Pamela says. “Maybe I keep the wrong friends,” she adds ruefully.
Is that the case, or are Pamela’s male age-mates just not at the same maturity level as her? If so, is there a reason why men take longer to attain maturity? Dr. Philomena Wavinya Ndambuki is a child and educational psychologist teaching educational psychology at the Kenyatta University’s School of Education. While she agrees that men do indeed tend to take longer to mature compared to women, it is not a developmental issue. According to her, men and women develop more or less at the same rates.
“There are eight developmental stages that one goes through between infancy and adulthood,” says Dr. Ndambuki. “The first is infancy, early childhood, mid-childhood and late childhood, early adolescence, mid-adolescence and late adolescence and finally adulthood. Throughout these stages, boys and girls grow more or less at the same rate. There is no evidence that women develop at a faster rate than men at any of these stages except in early adolescence. Boys, however, make up for the disparity at mid-adolescence. So by the time they reach adulthood, which begins at 19 years, both boys and girls have attained the same level of development.
“There are five different measures of full development from childhood to adulthood. These are physical, intellectual, emotional, social and moral development. At adulthood, a person should have attained full growth in all these aspects. If a person reaches adulthood and they have not attained full growth in some aspects, they would be considered stunted in those particular areas.” Dr. Philomena Ndambuki says that men and women do not exhibit much difference in any of the developmental stages. Further, the rate of developmental stunting is more or less equal between men and women.
“I do not believe that men are immature in the sense of developmental maturity,” says the Ph.D. in Psychology holder. “Rather, they have a less sense of responsibility.”
What this means is that men have the moral ability to determine right from wrong, and the intellectual ability to appreciate the consequences of their choices. They just choose to detach their actions from the consequences. The question then becomes; why would a part of the population behave so consistently in a manner that is so inconsistent with logic and rationality? How can this behavior manifest so consistently from one man to the next, one generation to the next, regardless of extensive geographic and demographic differences?
“It is the upbringing,” offers Dr. Ndambuki. “The societal expectations for girls differ fundamentally from those set for boys. These are reinforced by the primary social unit, the family, and further in the general social set up. Girls are raised to be caring, gentle and above all, responsible. Boys, on the other hand, are accorded more liberty to experiment with life. Take staying out late, for example. Boys can stay out longer and play further away from home than girls, and they would suffer fewer consequences.”
This, she says, will influence how boys and girls view responsibility in adulthood. Women mature faster because society places greater pressure on them to do so than it does on men. If a woman were to engage in binge drinking and regular betting at 27, she would face harsher judgement and greater consequences than a man who indulges in similar or even worse behavior.
There you have it, folks. Women must remain unassailable paragons of virtue, or else society will come down hard on them. In the meantime, men can continue to play with little consequence. After all, boys will be boys.