In Sweden at least you were always told growing up that girls matured a lot quicker than boys did. Back then I bought that statement as it was, seeing that girls the same age were more interested in older boys and that their overall persona/behaviour generally was a lot more calm/down to earth/stable compared to most boys in my social environment.

However, growing up I've begun to question this statement. I believe the assumption more resides to the gender specific roles that we apply to our children depending on which sex they happen to be born with. A boy is usually encouraged to be impulsive/reactionary/risk taking where as a girl is encouraged to be more laid-back/reasoning/responsibility-taking.

I would like to know if there is any credible research on the subject that can prove my reasoning right or wrong?

  • 3
    Lack of notable claim in the question, but to add an anecdotal one ive heard this countless times too!
    – Jamiec
    Jan 22, 2013 at 11:37
  • 5
    What exactly do you mean by the word "mature"?
    – Christian
    Jan 22, 2013 at 13:26
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    @AndroidHustle If the definition is set it should be able for you to find an authoritive source that gives a definition. Both men and woman are declared to reach adulthood at 18. Why? Because we have societal norms and laws. You seem to be asking for something that's intrinsic. Therefore it's up to you to define what you are asking for.
    – Christian
    Jan 22, 2013 at 15:17
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    @AndroidHustle : When you hear someone making a claim, don't immediately go into judging it as true/false. Distinguish claims that can be true/false from claims that are to vague to be true/false. If I give you two persons how would you go about determining which of the two person is more mature in a biological sense? If you can't answer that question then there no real question and I think the question should be closed.
    – Christian
    Jan 22, 2013 at 16:36
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    @AndroidHustle : There are no platonic ideas of "maturity" out there that could be investigated by a biologist. You have to make a judgement about what you mean with the word before you investigate groups. It's quite trival to define maturity in a way that allows you to say that women are more mature then men when they reach the same age. It's trival to define it in a way where men are more mature than women. You actually have to choose a specific definition for the question to make sense.
    – Christian
    Jan 23, 2013 at 16:35

1 Answer 1


I recommend the following two articles that go a ways towards answering your question.

One: Sex Matters during Adolescence: Testosterone-Related Cortical Thickness Maturation Differs between Boys and Girls by Bramen, Hranilovich, et.al. Relevant quotes:

"Studies have shown sex differences in hormone-related brain maturation when boys and girls are age-matched, however, because girls mature 1–2 years earlier than boys, these sex differences could be confounded by pubertal maturation."

"The age-related developmental trajectories of male and female adolescents are different, and modified by androgen-receptor genetic subtypes, confirming results from recent studies of sex-differences in hormone/puberty-correlated maturation."

"Because frontal lobes are important for impulse control and risk/reward assessments, are known to functionally mature during puberty, and have important functional connections with medial temporal lobe structures, such as the amygdala, we expected to extend our findings to this report where we focus on cortical thickness."

A lot of literature for review here, but the gist is that girls reach sexual maturity earlier, which corresponds to the development of certain brain structures.

Two: Sexual dimorphism of brain developmental trajectories during childhood and adolescence by Lenroot, Gogtay, et. al. Relevant:

"Both cortical and subcortical gray matter trajectories follow an inverted U shaped path with peak sizes 1 to 2 years earlier in females."

In summary and in (partial) answer to your question, with many caveats outlined in the above to papers, girl brains develop faster than boy brains. This may correspond to earlier "maturation" in the colloquial sense, if that sense is understood, for example, as the development of the frontal lobe, which is responsible for impulse control.

The issue of whether such differences are affected by nurture is not addressed in these studies. There is however strong evidence for significant physiological differences in the rate of brain development.

  • +1 That is a very good and thorough answer! So there really could be some truth to the claim then..? That actually surprises me. I've been quite certain that this assumption came from the strongly established gender roles in our society, telling small girls to be calm, polite and responsible to fit in society. The matter or possible bias from the scientists conducting the study maybe should be weighed in, but nonetheless, looks like there could be some fact behind this claim.. Jan 24, 2013 at 8:54

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