Sex differences in children's learning and memory
Hales, Jessica Elizabeth Grant
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Studies of adults have found sex differences in learning and memory of varying direction and effect, often dependent upon the type of memory task examined. However, the relatively few studies of children on various memory tasks revealed many inconsistent findings with regard to sex differences during the developmental period. As a result, this investigation aimed to characterize sex-related variations in memory ability, particularly from a developmental perspective, so that the timing of the emergence of adult-like differences could be determined. These goals were achieved using the standardization sample of the Children’s Memory Scale (CMS, Cohen, 1997), a comprehensive, standardized measure of children’s memory skills. In order to determine if the memory structures of boys and girls were similar, exploratory factor analyses were conducted on 20 subtest scores from the CMS. These analyses revealed similar structure between the sexes consisting of six factors: word memory, spatial location memory, prose memory, scene memory, facial memory, and working memory/span. Comparison of memory factor scores revealed significant sex effects in some memory areas, but no significant sex by age group interactions. Specifically, boys outscored girls at memory for location of a visual spatial pattern; girls were significantly higher than boys on memory for scenes, which required memory for concrete objects and their locations. In addition, girls tended to score higher than boys on memory for faces, although this finding was not statistically significant. Additional analyses with a subset of the standardization sample examined sex differences in memory factor scores with verbal reasoning and visual-spatial processing skills covaried. With these skills accounted for, the female advantage in scene memory persisted, but the sexes were similar on other memory skills. All of these findings were related to the hypotheses, followed by a discussion of the neuropsychological implications of this research.