Raudsepp and Paasuke (1995) tested 60 8-year olds (33 boys and 27 girls), finding that there are no sex differences in the kinematics of running. However, they found that boys perform better in overhand throwing and in tasks evaluating motor performances and muscle strength. Girls outperformed the boys in two tasks: sit and reach and balance (p. 294). This study merits discussion on several fronts. First, the researchers hypothesize that factors other than biological account for the gender differences in motor skills that they found in their tests (p.
301). Second, the researchers note that biological variables had been considered in previous studies (p. 294), and they made this point a significant aspect of their own investigation. Third, the children were given classes before the testing sessions (p. 295). In trying to account for the results of their study, the authors hypothesize that factors other than biological could account for the gender differences. Biological factors include age, height, weight, and body fatness (p. 294). A factor that could explain these differences is experience.
Indeed, the authors note that, in the case of overhand throwing, girls do not have the same amount of experience as boys, and that boys have more memories of practicing overhand throwing (p. 295). In trying to eliminate biological factors from the results of their study, Raudsepp and Pausuke standardized the age factor, as they chose only 8-year olds for their study. They also measured the height, weight, and BMI of their subjects, finding that there were no significant sex differences in height and BMI.
However, the boys were heavier than the girls (p. 297). In their choice of subjects, the researchers have chosen groups that differ only in the biological factor of weight. This is a significant point for their study, however, there are other biological factors that could have been considered and that possibly might account for some of the differences the authors observed. For instance, could joint length (in proportion to height) account for the difference in stride lengths in the running kinematics test?
Also, if the boys and girls are similar in height and BMI, what aspects of the body composition of boys accounts for their heavier weight? An intriguing aspect of this study is that the researchers gave the children classes before the testing sessions. In these classes, children were taught the proper techniques of running and throwing (p. 295). As these classes likely impacted the children’s performance in the tests, additional information should have been provided to the reader. Who taught these classes?
Were the instructors male or female? Were the children separated by gender in the classes, or were boys and girls taught together? An additional component that could make an ideal subject for future investigation would be to test the children both before and after the training sessions. In this way, the elements of experience and technique could be weighed against performance, particularly in the task of overhand throwing. In summary, this study largely confirmed findings from previous studies.
The authors, in their attempts to standardize biological factors, bring up important questions to consider in future studies. In the area of biological factors: What accounts for the boys’ heavier weight? Does limb length account for differences in stride length? Is there a difference in body composition or limb length that accounts for girls’ increased flexibility and balance? In respect to environmental factors: How did the technique classes affect the children’s performance?
Courtney from Study Moose
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