American author John Gray believes men and women are so different they could have come from different planets — hence the catchy title of his bestselling book, Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus.
It’s certainly true that women often have more focus in life, and that their priorities are more considered. But is it true that men mature more slowly than women? And if so is it because if their physical differences or just society’s different pressures on boys and girls?
For 27-year-old Pamela Murugi it’s a no-brainer. The professional voice instructor remembers dating a man two years her senior. Despite the difference, she felt that they were at different stages in their lives. “We just could never discuss real issues, Yeah we had lots of fun, but we never really talked about our future,” she recalls.
That relationship ended; sad for them but all too common.
Most intimate relationships between men and women in the same age group often fail after the couples find that they are incompatible, not because they do not feel affection for each other, but because they have different priorities in life. And mostly, it is the women who feel their male age-mates are lagging.
“Girls grow faster than boys, both physically and mentally,” explained John Simiyu, a teacher at Bishop Ndingi Mixed High School in Machakos County. After 11 years in mixed high schools, he speaks with authority on gender differences.
“Even at a young age, girls seem to develop a greater sense of responsibility than boys,” he said. “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.”
He said that when they join form one, all children are confused and scared and it is . It is difficult to see the behavioral tendencies of different sexes.
However, as they settle in, play and mischief still take a considerable part of boys’ time while girls substitute playtime for reading novels and talking together.
Pamela Murugi agrees. Even among her friends, she notices major differences between men and women. At 27, most of her friends are graduates and professionals with many of them employed and others either looking for jobs or are self-employed.
“There is a great difference between the guys and the girls,” Pamela said. “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.” Some of her female friends have started blogs and others small businesses while yet others pursue music and art as professionals. The men, however, seem more concerned with having a good time; partying and following football.
“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 said, adding ruefully, “Maybe I keep the wrong friends.”
So why do men take longer to mature?
Dr. Philomena Wavinya Ndambuki is a child and educational psychologist teaching at Kenyatta University’s School of Education. While she agrees that men do tend to take longer to mature, it is not a developmental issue because, she said, men and women develop at the same rates.
“There are eight developmental stages that one goes through between infancy and adulthood,” said Dr. Ndambuki. “The first is infancy, then 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, both boys and girls have attained the same level of development.”
She went on: “There are five different measures of full development from childhood to adulthood —physical, intellectual, emotional, social and moral. At adulthood, a person should have attained full growth in all these.”
Dr. Ndambuki added that men and women did not show much difference in any of the developmental stages ad that 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,” she said. “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 so inconsistent with logic and rationality? And how can this be common from one generation to the next, regardless of geographic and demographic differences?
“It is the upbringing,” said 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. 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 said, influences how boys and girls view responsibility in adulthood.
Women mature faster because society places greater pressure on them to do so. 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 behaves the same way.
So there you have it. Women must remain paragons of virtue, or else society will come down hard on them. In the meantime, men can continue to play.
And after all, boys will be boys.