, Volume 23, Issue 9-10, pp 439-470

The gender-linked language effect in primary and secondary students' impromptu essays

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Impromptu essays were written by 96 primary- and secondary-school students (48 males and 48 females) from three grades: fourth, eighth, and twelfth. In Analysis 1, printed transcripts of the essays were coded for 19 language features by trained observers. Discriminant analyses showed language differences between the male and the female writers at all three grade levels, differences that permitted 84 to 87% accuracy of gender prediction. In Analysis 2, the same transcripts were rated on three attributional dimensions by untrained university students and older individuals. Differences were found for all three grades: fourth-grade females were rated higher on Socio-Intellectual Status and Aesthetic Quality, but corresponding males were rated higher on Dynamism; eighth- and twelfth-grade males were rated higher on Dynamism. In Analysis 3, multiple regression analyses demonstrated a predictive link between objective language use and subjective attributional ratings. The findings are generally consistent with sex role stereotypes and fully support the existence of the Gender-Linked Language Effect in the writing of fourth graders.

The authors wish to thank Anne Du Bois, Torborg L. Lundell, Sandra A. Thompson, and an anonymous reviewer for their insightful comments on an early draft of the manuscript.