Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Boys are More Likely to Be Dyslexic, But Are More Likely to Make Good, Anyway

One of Susan Pinker's themes in The Sexual Paradox is that boys are more fragile than girls from conception to old age. However, Pinker has been in clinical psychological practice long enough to see some of her patients turn from fragile boys to successful men. They still have the handicaps they had, but they have developed work-arounds. The key is the single-mindedness that men are also more likely to show than are women.

Boys are at least twice as likely as girls to be dyslexic. Girls do better than boys in school anyway; dyslexic boys find themselves doubly behind in school. Yet dyslexic boys often find other ways to succeed. The building trades are full of dyslexic men who are good with spatial relations, a skill that favors men. Pinker's example is a young man who was doing well as a chef. A big-time kitchen is a highly competitive, aggressive, hands-on, and visual place -- all male skills that can compensate for trouble reading.

Dyslexic girls do better in school than dyslexic boys, though worse than other students without reading problems. They are likely to go the other route in working around reading, by emphasizing talking, empathy, and the people skills that women are generally better at.

The bottom line, as Pinker reports it, is that dyslexic men make more as adults than dyslexic women, even though the women did better in school. In fact, the dyslexic men worked so hard that they made more, on average, than women without reading problems.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From what you've described, it sounds like when people of either gender struggle with dyslexia they work extremely hard to make up the deficit in other ways, but young men do it in industries that eventually lead to higher paychecks. Does the book address that at all? I wouldn't be surprised to find that a talented chef makes more than a social worker or counselor (the kind of career that might suit a dyslexic woman who has developed her verbal skills and empathy), but it doesn't mean the chef works harder than the social worker. Have I misunderstood Pinker's point?

As recent political discussions about executive pay have unfolded, it seems fair to say that hard work and high earnings are not always related.