Sex differences in spatial ability in children

Kimberly A. Kerns, Sheri A. Berenbaum

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79 Scopus citations


There is considerable evidence that sex differences in spatial ability exist in adults, with males outperforming females at every age after puberty. It is difficult, however, to find sex differences in children younger than 13. This is due in part to the lack of adequate measures of spatial ability for use with children. We report the use of spatial tests for children that are similar to those that have shown large sex differences in adults and may be measuring ability comparable to adult spatial ability. Four tests of mental rotation and spatial visualization were given to two samples of children. The first sample consisted of 81 children (39 males and 42 females) aged 9 to 12 years. The second sample consisted of 42 children (21 males and 21 females) aged 9 to 13 years. Sex differences of .4-.6 standard deviations were found on three tests in both samples. These results indicate that sex differences in spatial ability can be found in preadolescents if appropriate tests are used. Measurement of these abilities in children facilitates the investigation of possible biological and sociocultural contributors to the sex differences in spatial ability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)383-396
Number of pages14
JournalBehavior Genetics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1991

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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