Sex Differences in Non-Verbal and Verbal Abilities in Childhood and Adolescence

Toivainen, Teemu; Papageorgiou, Kostas A.; Tosto, Maria G. and Kovas, Yulia. 2017. Sex Differences in Non-Verbal and Verbal Abilities in Childhood and Adolescence. Intelligence, 64, pp. 81-88. ISSN 0160-2896 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Twin research has shown that females with male co-twins perform better than females with female co-twins on mental rotation. This beneficial effect of having a male sibling on spatial ability could be due to in-uterine transmission of testosterone from males to females (the Twin Testosterone Transfer hypothesis, TTT). The present study explored sex differences and the TTT in non-verbal and verbal abilities in a large sample of twins assessed longitudinally at 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14 and 16 years of age. Females scored significantly higher than males on both verbal and non-verbal abilities at ages 2, 3 and 4. Males scored significantly higher than females on verbal ability at ages 10 and 12. The effect sizes of all differences were very small. No sex differences in non-verbal or verbal abilities were found at 7, 9, 14 and 16 years of age. No support for the TTT was found at any age. The findings indicate that the twin testosterone transfer effect occurs only for specific cognitive abilities, such as mental rotation.

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TEDS is supported by a program grant from the UK Medical Research Council (G0901245; previously G0500079). YK's research has been supported by the grant from the Russian Science Foundation (project 14-48-00043) to Tomsk State University. TT is supported by the Economic and Social Research Council [grant number ES/J500124/1].


Sex differences, Twins, Testosterone transmission hypothesis, Non-verbal abilities, Verbal abilities

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25 July 2017Accepted
10 August 2017Published Online
1 September 2017Published

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Date Deposited:

27 Jul 2017 08:45

Last Modified:

15 Jan 2024 10:58

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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