Excerpt from Raising Cain by Dan Kindlon, Michael Thompson Ph.D., plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Raising Cain

Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys

By Dan Kindlon, Michael Thompson Ph.D.

Raising Cain
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Apr 1999,
    298 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2000,
    255 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


The results? The girls were less upset by the crying. They made greater efforts to calm the baby and less often moved to turn the speaker off. Boys whose heart rate pattern showed that they were quite stressed by the crying also were quick to "turn off" the crying with a flip of the speaker switch. These distressed boys were also more likely to act aggressively toward the baby--telling it to "shut up," for instance. Boys whose heart rate showed a lower stress level were more likely to comfort the infant. The researchers theorized that children--in this case, boys--who are more easily stressed by emotional responses may prefer to avoid them. In other words, boys who have trouble managing their own emotions may routinely tune out the cues of other people's upset.

Boy Biology: No Simple Answers

In the wake of a 1998 schoolyard killing in Jonesboro, Arkansas, a journalist asked us about "the nature-nurture question," whether the boys' violence was genetic or the result of how they'd been raised. Her implicit assumption was that boys are prone to violence because of their biology. Certainly, male hormones were present at the scene: every boy has them. But we think the intensity of discussion about boy biology obscures the more meaningful and urgent issue of how we raise boys in this culture.

We answered the reporter's question with an apocryphal anecdote about a famous psychology professor who said that he had studied the nature-nurture question with great care, reading all the literature, and had finally come to a conclusion: nature wins--by a score of 53 percent to 47 percent. The reporter laughed, seeing both the humor and the truth contained in the statement--that clearly everything we do is influenced heavily by both. Then we asked her why it is that there is always such an exclusive, determined hunt for a biological culprit. She paused and said, "Well, people are looking for simple answers."

But human behavior defies simple explanation, whether we're talking aggression or tenderness. What is clear is that every behavior is influenced by multiple forces, from biology to community. The "nature or nurture" debate sidesteps the genuine complexity of these issues. Rather than making it a contest between the two, current thinking in the neurosciences highlights the inextricable link between biology and experience, and it is now widely recognized that environmental factors can affect the structure of our brain.4 An extreme example is a trauma victim whose body releases stress hormones over a long period, which cause physical damage to parts of the brain, which in turn will affect how he behaves. On the other hand, brain functioning can be enhanced by various learning experiences, such as being in an environment rich with exposure to letter shapes and sounds. These experiences will shape his brain--new neurons may actually be created--and a child will end up with a greater ability to read than he "was born with." The bottom line: heredity isn't destiny.

There are, however, two clear biological differences between boys and girls that have been shown to have an impact on development and behavior. The first, which we discuss more fully in chapter 2, is that girls' verbal abilities, on average, mature faster than boys': they talk earlier and more fluently. Boys tend to catch up later, but in the early grades especially, feminine superiority in this area is readily apparent to parents, teachers, and researchers. The second difference is that boys tend to be more physically active than girls, moving faster and staying in motion longer. As we shall see, this propensity for activity and the consequences of it shape a boy's every experience and the way others experience him.

Other than these, there are not many developmental differences that are clearly biological in origin. Even the celebrated superiority of boys in math skills cannot be reduced to boy biology. Many studies of gender difference in math performance show that overall the girls tend to do slightly better.

Excerpted from Raising Cain by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson. Copyright© 1999 by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: A Man Called Ove
    A Man Called Ove
    by Fredrik Backman
    Reading A Man Called Ove was like having Christmas arrive early. Set in Sweden, this debut novel is ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Search
    by Geoff Dyer
    All hail the independent publisher! In May 2014, Graywolf Press brought two of long-revered British ...
  • Book Jacket
    Mrs. Hemingway
    by Naomi Wood
    Naomi Wood's latest novel, Mrs. Hemingway, is a fictionalized biography covering in turn writer...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The City
by Dean Koontz

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  103Tomlinson Hill:
    Chris Tomlinson
  2.  19The Arsonist:
    Sue Miller

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.