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Girls develop female characteristics by inheriting two X chromosomes (xx), one from each parent.
The English word girl first appeared during the Middle Ages between 1250 and 1300 CE and came from the Anglo-Saxon words gerle (also spelled girle or gurle).The Anglo-Saxon word gerela meaning dress or clothing item also seems to have been used as a metonym in some sense.
Girl has meant any young unmarried woman since about 1530. Its first noted meaning for sweetheart is 1648. The earliest known appearance of girl-friend is in 1892 and girl next door, meant as a teenaged female or young woman with a kind of wholesome appeal, dates only to 1961.
The word girl is sometimes used to refer to an adult female. This usage may be considered derogatory or disrespectful in professional or other formal contexts, just as the term boy can be considered disparaging when applied to an adult man. Hence, this usage is often deprecative. It can also be used deprecatively when used to discriminate against children ("you're just a girl").
In casual context, the word has positive uses, as evidenced by its use in titles of popular music. It has been used playfully for people acting in an energetic fashion (Canadian singer Nelly Furtado's "Promiscuous Girl") or as a way of unifying women of all ages on the basis of their once having been girls (American country singerMartina McBride's "This One's for the Girls"). These positive uses mean gender rather than age.
Slightly more boys are born than girls (in the US this ratio is about 105 boys born for every 100 girls), but girls are slightly less likely to die than boys, during childhood, so that the ratio for under 15 years of age is 104 boys for every 100 girls. Since the 18th century the human sex ratio has been observed as about 1,050 boys for every 1,000 girls born and sex selection on the part of parents further lessens the number of female births.
While patriarchal beliefs have led to female infanticide (the killing of female infants) since ancient times, it is a persistent practice in some regions of the world today. It is a significant problem in India and China in particular. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) State of the World Population Report indicates that these practices, combined with neglect, have resulted in at least 60 million "missing" girls in Asia. Large numbers of adult women are absent from the population in some regions, a consequence of female infanticide during recent decades.
Census information shows the problem is worsening. In India overall, by 2011, there were little more than 9 girls younger than 6 years old for every 10 boys. The 2011 census showed that the ratio of girls to boys under the age of 6 years old has dropped even during the past decade, from 927 girls for every 1000 boys in 2001 to 918 girls for every 1000 boys in 2011. Maharashtra state's ratio is 883 girls, and Satara is even lower at 881. Hospitals in India are banned from giving out the gender of an unborn fetus to prevent sex-selection abortions, although evidence indicates that the information is often revealed Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute in Washington, D.C. has said: "Twenty-five million men in China currently can’t find brides because there is a shortage of women [...] young men emigrate overseas to find brides." The gender imbalance in these regions is also blamed for spurring growth in the commercial sex trade; the UN's 2005 report states that up to 800,000 people being trafficked across borders each year, and as many as 80 percent are women and girls.
Biological gender interacts with environment in ways not fully understood. Identical twin girls separated at birth and reunited decades later have shown both startling similarities and differences. In 2005 Kim Wallen of Emory University noted, "I think the 'nature versus nurture' question is not meaningful, because it treats them as independent factors, whereas in fact everything is nature and nurture." Wallen said gender differences emerge very early and come about through an underlying preference males and females have for their chosen activities.
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