Unconditional Parenting p.55

When we make children feel powerless, forcing them to submit to our will, this often generates intense anger, and just because that anger can’t be expressed at the moment doesn’t mean it disappears. What happens to it depends on the child’s personality and the specifics of the situation. Sometimes the result is more battles with the parent. As author Nancy Samalin comments, even “when we ‘win,’ we lose. When we make children obey by force, threats, or punishment, we make them feel helpless. They can’t stand feeling helpless, so they provoke another confrontation to prove they still have some power.” And where do they learn how to use that power? From us. Not only does authoritarian parenting make them mad; it also teaches them how to direct that anger against another person.

Such children may grow up with a constant need to thumb their noses at authority figures. Sometimes they bring all that hostility with them to school or the playground…

And sometimes, if a child is afraid of defying you to your face, he’ll figure out a way to do it behind your back. Lay-down-the-law parenting may produce kids who seem to be so well behaved as to be the envy of the neighbors. Often, however, they’ve just learned to be sneakier about their misbehavior, which sometimes turns out to be appallingly mean-spirited.


Alfie Kohn – Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason p.55


Unconditional Parenting p.119

I want to propose a baker’s dozen guiding principles. Each of these has practical implications that may be more surprising and challenging than its capsule description would imply.

Here they are all together:

  1. Be reflective.
  2. Reconsider your requests.
  3. Keep your eye on you long-term goals.
  4. Put the relationship first.
  5. Change how you see, not just how you act.
  6. R-E-S-P-E-C-T
  7. Be authentic.
  8. Talk less, ask more.
  9. Keep their ages in mind.
  10. Attribute to children the best possible motive consistent with the facts.
  11. Don’t stick your no’s in unnecessarily.
  12. Don’t be rigid.
  13. Don’t be in a hurry.


Alfie Kohn – Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason p.119


Why Gender Matters p.270

A popular notion about transgender individuals is that sex-reassignment surgery reliably relieves the mental distress associated with being transgender. But researchers who have actually studied transgender individuals postsurgery have arrived at a different conclusion. As one investigator found, “even once the transsexual has achieved sex reassignment, the figure of being trapped in the wrong body, or being wrongly encased, continues to be evoked.”

Transgender adults who begin receiving hormonal therapy do benefit, on average, from that therapy: one year after starting hormonal therapy to transition to the desired gender, the rates of anxiety, depression, and impairment among transgender individuals are significantly reduced. Nevertheless, even after sex-reassignment surgery and hormone treatment, the rate of mental illness such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder among transgender individual remains much higher than among the general population. “Sex reassignment is associated with more serious psychological sequelae and more prevalent regret than had previously been supposed,” conclude other reviewers. In the largest and longest follow-up available, researchers studied everybody who underwent sex-reassignment surgery in Sweden between 1973 and 2003: 191 MtF individual and 131 FtM individuals. These investigators found that 19 percent of MtF clients and 17 percent of FtM clients had been hospitalized for psychiatric problems prior to undergoing sex reassignment, compare with less than 4 percent of matched controls. After sex-reassignment surgery, transsexual clients were still nearly three times more likely than controls to be hospitalized for psychiatric problems other than gender dysphoria, even after adjustment for prior psychiatric problems. There was some benefit from sex-reassignment surgery, to be sure. Transsexuals who had undergone sex-reassignment surgery reported feeling less gender dysphoria – less of a sense of being trapped in the wrong body – and were somewhat less likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric problems than they were before the surgery.

But only somewhat. Even after sex-reassignment surgery, transsexual clients were still nearly five times more likely to have made a suicide attempt and nineteen times more likely to have died from suicide than were matched controls, again after adjusting for prior psychiatric problems. The researchers did not find any significant differences between MtF individual and FtM individuals on any of these outcomes. Being transgender, even in Sweden and even after having sex-reassignment surgery, puts you at much greater risk of having major psychiatric problems, including death by suicide. This finding is consistent with multiple other studies.


Leonard Sax – Why Gender Matters p.270

Why Gender Matters p.327

Professor Kim Wallen and his colleagues at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta decided to do this familiar study again, with a little twist: instead of offering human children a choice between dolls and trucks, they gave that choice to monkeys. They gave monkey the opportunity to play with a “boy toy” such as a truck or with a “girl toy” such as a doll.

The basic pattern of results was similar to the pattern seen with human children. The female monkeys slightly prefer to play with dolls rather than trucks. The males substantially prefer to play with trucks rather than dolls.

It is difficult to invoke the social construction of gender to accommodate this finding. You would have to assert that a monkey in authority, maybe a parent, is saying to a young male monkey, Don’t let me catch you playing with a doll! But in fact nothing of the sort happens. Monkeys don’t appear to care whether other monkeys, female or male, are playing with trucks or with dolls. And yet the main effect – the preference of the male to play with a truck rather than with a doll – is clearly present in monkeys, as it is in human children. But the social construction of gender cannot reasonably be invoked to explain this effect in humans, in view of the fact that a similar effect is present in monkeys…

Developmental psychologist Gerianne Alexander found sex differences among monkeys similar to the sex difference we see among human children. In 2003, one year after she published her monkey study. Professor Alexander published her theory explaining why female and male monkeys – as well as female and male humans – might prefer to play with different toys.

Scientists have known for more than thirty years that our visual system is actually two separate systems operating in parallel, beginning at the level of the ganglion cells in the retina and extending back to the visual cortex and visual  association cortex. One system is devoted to answering the question What is it? What’s its color? What’s its texture? The other system is devoted to answering the question Where is it going? And how fast is it moving? These two systems in the brain are often referred to as the “what” and the “where” system.

Professor Alexander was the first to suggest that hardwired sex differences in the visual system may explain finding such as the observed sex difference is the toy preferences of children (as well as monkeys). She conjectured that maybe girls have more resources in the “what” system, while boys have more resources in the “where” system. Girls are more likely to play with a doll rather than with a dull gray truck because the doll has a more interesting color and texture. Boys are more likely to play with the dull gray truck because it has wheels. It moves.

Professor Alexander’s hypothesis helps to make sense of many finding that otherwise are hard to explain. For example, baby girls (three to eight months of age), but not baby boys of the same age, prefer to look at dolls rather than at toy trucks. When researchers show women and men different colors and ask them to name the colors, “women respond faster and more accurately than men.” When researchers test men and women to see how accurately they can target a moving object, men are significantly more accurate than women… Finally researchers in Germany have reported dramatic sex differences in the anatomy of the human visual cortex in adults, with significantly more resources devoted to the “where” system in men that in women, even after adjusting for any overall size difference in the brain.


Leonard Sax – Why Gender Matters p.327

Why Gender Matters p.314

In 2017, the Journal of Neuroscience Research devoted an entire issue to sex differences in every aspect of brain function, from vision to learning to mental illness. The issue was 791 pages long, with seventy-three different scholarly articles. Larry Cahill, a professor of neuroscience at the university of California at Irvine who served as editor for the special edition, wrote:

Due to a deeply ingrained, implicit (but false) assumption that “equal” means “the same,” most neuroscientists knew, and even feared that establishing that males and females are not the same in some aspect of brain function meant establishing that they were not equal. This assumption is false and deeply harmful, in particular to the health of women, but remains deeply impact nonetheless.

The past 15 to 20 years in particular witnessed an explosion of research (despite the prevailing biases against the topic) documenting sex influences at all levels of brain function. So overpowering is the wave of research that the standard ways of dismissing sex influences (e.g., “They are all small and unreliable,” “They are all due to circulating hormones,” “They are all due to human culture,” and “They don’t exist on the molecular level”) have all been swept away, at least for those cognizant of the research.

These papers forcefully document the fact that sex influences on brain function are ubiquitous, regularly reshaping findings – hence conclusions – at all levels of our field, and powerfully demonstrating how much “sex matters.”

The notion that sex matters fundamentally, powerfully, and pervasively for all of neuroscience (not just for reproduction) is an idea whose time indeed has come.


Leonard Sax – Why Gender Matters p.314

Why Gender Matters p.261

We know that most young boys who say that they are girls grow up to be men who do not think they are women and who do not want to be women. We now have many studies in which researchers have followed such boys for fifteen or twenty years, well into adulthood. In every study, the great majority of such boys grow up to be men who have no interest in becoming women. In one of the largest such studies, of 139 boys who insisted in childhood that they were really girls trapped in the bodies of boys, only 12 percent still felt that way as adolescents or adults. In other words, 88 percent of the boys grew out of it. Many of those boys grew up to be gay men. Some grew up to be straight men. But they are mend. They don’t need hormone supplements or surgery. They are capable of fathering children.

In other words, for the majority of young boys who say they are really girls, the desire to be a girl is just a phase. For such boys, allowing the boy to present himself as a girl will be a major stumbling block on his road to becoming a man (whether a gay man or a straight man)…

The most common outcome for the five-year-old boy or eight-year-old boy who says that he is really a girl, twenty tears down the road is a boy who grows up to be a gay man… Most five-year-olds, and even most eight-year-olds, have little sense of their own sexual orientation prior to the onset of puberty. Many kids in that age group, when presented with the facts of life, just pronounce it all to be “yucky.” Heterosexual intimacy and homosexual intimacy seem equally strange, and repellent, to many prepubescent kids. So it’s very difficult for that eight-year-old boy who loves to dress up as a princess, who believes himself to be a girl, to know whether he might grow up to be a gay man and feel right as a gay man. Being a girl may seem more real and more comprehensible.


Leonard Sax – Why Gender Matters p.261

Why Gender Matters p.259

The transgender activists seem to be motivated not primarily by data or research but by a belief: the belief that transgender is a normal variation.  If that’s true – if being transgender is a normal variation, just like being left-handed – then any effort to align a patient’s gender identify with their biological sex would clearly be misguided, just as trying to make a left-handed person write with their right hand is misguided.

But transgender is not a normal variation. People with normal variations such as left-handedness do not require any professional intervention. But a transgender individual will require treatment with sex hormones and perhaps even sex-reassignment surgery in order to live in the other-sex role. Left-handed people don’t need prescription medications or surgical intervention in order to live as left-handed people. But a transgender individual will need lifelong treatment with cross-sex hormones in order to pass as a member of the other sex.

Prior to 1942, prescription female hormones were not available. And without prescription hormones, an adult male wearing a dress looks like. . .  a man in a dress. The modern conception of transgender – the notion that a child born male can, as an adult, be made to look like a woman and “pass” as a woman – rests on the ready availability of intervention such as electrolysis, plastic surgery, and prescription hormones. It is as much a creation of the modern world as the telephone and the digital computer.


Leonard Sax – Why Gender Matters p.259