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Girly Girls and Tomboys -- Nature or Nurture?

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young girl wearing bandana

Vivian Manning-Schaffel: A few years back, BBC News reported some compelling research that showed mothers with a higher level of maternal testosterone give birth to tomboys -- or daughters with more "male" personality traits.

I've known construction manager Maria Hinkson since second grade and ever since, she's always been a tomboy -- a straight-upjeans and T-shirts gal who gets along with boys as well as girls.

Her elder daughter is just like her, but her youngest, Lauren, fell a bit further from her tree. "It's Christmas Eve. I wear jeans, a sweater, and high-heeled boots, thinking I'm cool," says Hinkson. "My six-year-old daughter's decked out in a satin tea-length gown with a rhinestone buckle, white faux-fur shrug, black patent leather shoes, and black satin headband to match. My cousin Tommy said, 'You couldn't have had a more opposite daughter if you tried!'"

This begs the question -- is it just in Lauren's nature to be girly? We asked Marisa Raymond, genetic counselor and research coordinator at the University of Colorado/The Children's Hospital in Denver, CO, to get her take.

"This study caused a big stir in the nature vs. nurture debate,"says Raymond. "I have to wonder -- were the testosterone levels environmentally induced or was it something genetic? Did the tomboy girls have higher testosterone levels themselves? Ultimately, I think the conclusions in this article are premature. The answer isn't all or nothing. It's clear evidence that the answer lies somewhere in the middle, in how genes interact with one another and how they interact with the environment that makes us who we are."

next: Helping Kids Cope with Fears and Nightmares
18 comments so far | Post a comment now
kris April 27, 2009, 10:49 AM

I am a Tomboy I love rock climbing, paint balling, fishing, hiking, camping (occasionally), playing basketball, football, baseball, and I’m a good soccer player. And my mom is the ultimate girly girl. I have 5 other sisters we all played sports beat up the neighborhood boys and generally gave our mom the fits through out our childhood. So the whole idea that my mom has more testosterone levels making me predisposed to be a tomboy I find hard to believe. My mom would never do half the things we did or have done. And I can and do appreciate the finer feminine things. I like getting my hair and nails done. I wear dresses and skirts(and look damn good in them according to my hubby). I can be just as comfortable in jeans and a shirt as well as 6 inch killer stilletos and a great party dress. So where does that put me? I say in both worlds and I’m damn proud of it. Because if my son asks me for tips on his batting form, shotting form, or soccer I can answer instead of saying go ask dad. Girls RULE!!

Leeza April 27, 2009, 12:38 PM

I think girls grow up and are greatly influenced equally by genetics,environment(birth order,parental involvement,sibling relationships).I grew up with 4 sisters,no brothers.My Mother always looked perfect(hair,makeup,wardrobe and great figure).She never left the house without doing her girly routine.So,my 4 sisters do the same,it’s like brushing their teeth,it’s a learned routine.My sisters are very “girly girl” (like my Mom),they hate to get their hands dirty.I love to do all the stuff that guys traditionally do.(Landscaping,carpentry,fishing,etc.)Yet,when it’s time to go out to dinner, I become the fashionista that my Mom and sisters are 24/7.My husband loves it!My sisters always say that I am the prettiest sister.They are in awe of my tomboy side.

Gabby May 23, 2009, 2:21 PM

look, as far as nurture vs. nature goes who cares! knowing wether you have more testosterone isn’ gonna change the fact that your a tomboy or a girly girl. it;s a life choice.
i’m 12 years old and i’m a straight up tomb boy!

shipra June 1, 2009, 2:22 AM

i m a tomboy…luv to play sports.n i think tomboy’s r bttr than girly gals…girly gals r jus yuk…!!

shipra June 1, 2009, 2:23 AM

girly gals r yuk.

Tween Girl June 15, 2009, 11:04 PM

I’m a big tomboy. My Mom to, her Mom and My sister is on the girlier side but not girly. In the first part of this article, It mentions ‘male’ personality traits. There is no such things as ‘male’ or ‘female’ traits. These were created by the media to enhance the purchasing of thier products by the ‘correct’ genders. Stereotypes, bite my butt. I am a twelve year old girl. do I wear makeup, NO! Do like pink, NO! Do I obsess over boys….NO!!!!

ali August 19, 2009, 12:27 PM

can totally relate. Check out my blog

Ashley October 6, 2009, 2:56 AM

I am a real girly girl. Now I’m in love with her. She’s with a tomboy. I know it isn’t good at all. But I was already in too deep. We like each other. Please give me some advice! Should I keep hanging with her? For now, I can’t stay without her love and care…hoo…terrible!….

ASHLEY October 6, 2009, 3:37 AM

I am a real girly girl. Now I’m in love with her. She’s a tomboy. I know it isn’t good at all. But I was already in too deep. We like each other. Please give me some advice! Should I keep hanging with her? For now, I can’t stay without her love and care…hoo…terrible!….

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annette pruitt January 25, 2010, 6:08 AM

I believe that I’m the ultimate tomboy. I’d like to know if there are others like me. I don’t even know guys that do all the “guy things” that I do. I bought 40 vacant acres about 12 years ago, lived in a camper for 4 months with my 2 young kids then bought an old mobile home, hooked up all the electrical and water myself, put in new windows bought a skid loader, do most all repairs on my equipment and vehicles, built a garage from scrap materials from building sites where I do clean up, rehabbing a 130 year old school house that I now live in, heat with wood, cut and split my own firewood, loved football since I was 5, play a little basketball, baseball, tennis, piano, sing, write music, sew, and cook a little. My garage is full of tools where I do simple woodworking projects. I don’t have girlfriends anymore because I can’t relate to them. I have guy freinds but they all want me for a girlfreind but I want a guy that plays music and share a few other hobbies with

person that u dont know February 9, 2010, 1:35 PM

I consider myself more of a tomboy than a girly girl. Girly girls annoy me so much! Who cares if u smeared ur make up! Who cares about twighlight! Gosh! Just move on with watever!

Chandler August 2, 2010, 8:37 AM

I am, was, and always will be (though I’m only 13) a straight up, 100% girly girl. Fabric glue and sequins are my two best friends! I’ve always been awful at sports or anything athletic for that matter. My mother and I are so much alike, it’s unreal. We both love makeup, shopping, and pink. People always say that if we were the same age, we’d be twins! Unfortunately for my mom, she was one of three girls, and the only girly girl. Her sisters, like her mother, were ultimate tomboys, and that often left her out of their family activities. Don’t get me wrong- some of my best friends are tomboys (opposites attract!), but I’m sure she’s glad to have a daughter who shares her interests :)

yasline August 22, 2010, 3:05 PM

i am an ultimate 16 yr old tomboy mostly since i luv playing boys sports and my ps3 video games at home. i dont like hanging that much with my girly girl friends or my lil sis since i hate shopping n talking about boys whack.but i do dress a bit girly sometime when partying or chilling with friends.

CJ November 19, 2010, 6:33 AM

Am a Kenyan, 19yrs old and die hard tomboy, love sports and other boys activity…… am allergic to makeups and girly girl stuffs

Vree January 13, 2011, 5:09 PM

I’m a real tomboy, always have been. I love hiking and sports, and I’ve never worn makeup or liked the color pink. It kind of sucks because practically all the girls I know like to shop at the mall and things like that. Most of my friends are guys. May 20, 2011, 8:35 AM

Girly_girls_and_tomboys_ _natu.. Keen :) June 3, 2011, 4:01 AM

Girly_girls_and_tomboys_ _natu.. Corking :) June 5, 2011, 4:17 AM

Girly_girls_and_tomboys_ _natu.. Nifty :)

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