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Author: Hausman, Patricia
Resulting in 1 citation.
1. Hausman, Patricia
On the Rarity of Mathematically and Mechanically Gifted Females: A Life History Analysis
Ph.D. Dissertation, The Fielding Institute, 1999
Cohort(s): NLSY79
Publisher: UMI - University Microfilms, Bell and Howell Information and Learning
Keyword(s): Birth Outcomes; Cognitive Ability; Fertility; Gender Differences; Intelligence; Physical Characteristics; Women; Women's Education

Engineering and certain physical sciences demand high levels of both mathematical and mechanical (HMHM) ability--a cognitive pattern found primarily among males. A small number of females also demonstrate this pattern. However, its correlates have not been examined longitudinally. This study compared life histories of females with the HMHM pattern to those of other college-capable women. Using a model adapted from Helmut Nyborg's theory of general trait co-variance, it predicted that HMHM females would have characteristics suggesting low lifetime exposure to estrogens--or to a high androgen/estrogen ratio. Subjects were 127 females from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Most somatic and reproductive predictions were supported. HMHM females matured more slowly than controls and were taller, thinner, and more physically active. Reproductive histories proved particularly noteworthy. HMHM females lost almost 25% of their pregnancies to miscarriage or stillbirth, and almost half were childless as of their early to late 30s. Controls had more pregnancies and births-and much lower rates of childlessness and pregnancy loss. Limited data on contraceptive use did not explain the fertility differential. HMHM females showed less religiosity than controls, but other psychological predictions were inconclusive or not supported. Follow-up analysis considered whether study variables co-varied with general ability. Both groups were compared to a third (HIIQ) group equal to HMHM females in general ability but lacking marked mechanical aptitude. Means for HIIQ females on somatic and reproductive traits were generally intermediate to those of HMHM and control groups. By contrast, HMHM males showed some reproductive advantage over HIIQ males. The results indicate that HMHM females differ biologically from controls and are consistent with reports that sex hormones influence cognitive architecture. The findings further suggest that the rarity of the HMHM pattern in females is best explained by the Darwinian principle of sexual selection. Evolutionary pressures select against characteristics that inhibit reproductive success. In females, factors associated with the HMHM pattern appear to fall into this category. The limitations of the study, recommendations for further research, and suggested modifications to the study model are discussed. The need to replicate the findings in larger populations is stressed.
Bibliography Citation
Hausman, Patricia. On the Rarity of Mathematically and Mechanically Gifted Females: A Life History Analysis. Ph.D. Dissertation, The Fielding Institute, 1999.