Sexing the baby: Part 1--What do we really know about sex differentiation in the first three years of life?

Soc Sci Med. 2012 Jun;74(11):1684-92. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.05.051. Epub 2011 Jul 5.


The most common paradigm used to analyze health differences between men and women, is to divide the body from the social environment. In such a model, the bodily contribution and the social contribution add up to 100%. A few health science researchers offer more sophisticated approaches. None, however, offer an intensive study of the first several years of life in order to offer a model which integrates biology and culture in a fashion that demonstrates the productive processes by which gender itself emerges. In this article, we identify the earliest known sex-related biological and behavioral differences in young infants, toddlers and their parents and indicate how these might relate to health and disease. We frame these differences using unifying concepts from the study of neuroplasticity and dynamic systems theory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child Behavior
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Hormones / physiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Behavior
  • Male
  • Sex Factors
  • United States


  • Hormones