Advertisement

Sex Roles

, Volume 19, Issue 5–6, pp 317–333 | Cite as

Parent perceptions and attributions for children's math achievement

  • Doris K. Yee
  • Jacquelynne S. Eccles
Article

Abstract

From junior high school on, girls report lower estimations of their math ability and express more negative attitudes about math than do boys, despite equivalent performance in grades. Parents show this same sex-typed bias. This paper examines the role that attributions may play in explaining these sex differences in parents' perceptions of their children's math ability. Mothers and fathers of 48 junior high school boys and girls of high, average, and low math ability completed questionnaires about their perceptions of their child's ability and effort in math, and their causal attributions for their child's successful and unsuccessful math performances. Parents' math-related perceptions and attributions varied with their child's level of math ability and gender. Parents credited daughters with more effort than sons, and sons with more talent than daughters for successful math performances. These attributional patterns predicted sex-linked variations in parents' ratings of their child's effort and talent. No sex of child effects emerged for failure attributions; instead, lack of effort was seen as the most important, and lack of ability as the least important, cause of unsuccessful math performances for both boys and girls. Implications of these attributions for parents' influence on children's developing self-concept of math ability, future expectancies, and subsequent achievement behaviors are discussed.

Keywords

Junior High School Causal Attribution Math Performance Math Achievement Math Ability 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Armstrong, J. M. Achievement and participation of women in mathematics: An overview. (Report No. 10-MA-00). Denver, CO; National Assessment of Educational Progress, 1980. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 184 878).Google Scholar
  2. Covington, M. V. The motive for self-worth. In R. E. Ames & C. Ames (Eds.), Research on motivation in education, vol. 1, student motivation. Orlando, FL: Academic Press, 1984.Google Scholar
  3. Covington, M. V., & Beery, R. G. Self-worth and school learning. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976.Google Scholar
  4. Eccles, J. E., Adler, T. F., & Meece, J. L. Sex differences in achievement: A test of alternate theories. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1984, 46, 26–43.Google Scholar
  5. Eccles, J. E., Adler, T. F., Futterman, R., Goff, S. B., Kaczala, C. K., Meece, J. L., & Midgley, C. Expectancies, values, and academic behaviors. In J. T. Spence (Ed.), Perspectives on achievement and achievement motivation. San Francisco: Freeman, 1983.Google Scholar
  6. Eccles-Parsons, J. S., Adler, T. F., & Kaczla, C. M. Socialization of achievement attitudes and beliefs: Parental influences. Child Development, 1982, 53, 310–321.Google Scholar
  7. Ernest, J. Mathematics and sex. Santa Barbara, CA: University of California Press, 1976.Google Scholar
  8. Fennema, E. Mathematics learning and the sexes: A review. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 1974, 126–139.Google Scholar
  9. Fennema, E., & Sherman, J. Sex-related differences in mathematics achievement, spatial visualization, and affective factors. American Educational Research Journal, 1977, 14, 51–71.Google Scholar
  10. Frieze, I. H., Fisher, J., Hanusa, B., McHugh, M., & Valle, V. Attributing the causes of success and failure: Internal and external barriers to achievement in women. In J. Sherman & F. Denmark (Eds.), Psychology of women: Future directions of research. New York: Psychological Dimensions, 1978.Google Scholar
  11. Hess, R. D., Holloway, S., & King, D. R. Causal explanations for low and high performance in school: Some contrasts between parents and children. Paper presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Boston, 1981.Google Scholar
  12. Hilton, T. L., & Berglund, G. W. Sex differences in mathematics achievement: A longitudinal study. Journal of Educational Research, 1974, 67, 231–237.Google Scholar
  13. Holloway, S., Hess, R. D., & King, D. R. Mother's and children's explanations for school performance: Relation to academic achievement. Paper presented at annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Los Angeles, 1981.Google Scholar
  14. King, D., Hess, R., & Holloway, S. A study of mothers and children's causal attributions about children's performance in school subjects. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Los Angeles, 1981.Google Scholar
  15. Nicholls, J. G. Conceptions of ability and achievement motivation. In R. E. Ames & C. Ames (Eds.), Research on motivation in education, vol. 1, student motivation. Orlando, FL: Academic Press, 1984.Google Scholar
  16. Weiner, B., Nirenberg, R., & Goldstein, M. (1976). Social learning (locus of control) versus attributional (causal stability) interpretation of expectancy of success. Journal of Personality, 1976, 44, 52–68.Google Scholar
  17. Weiner, B., Frieze, I., Kukla, A., Reed, L., Rest, S., & Rosenbaum, R. Perceiving the causes of success and failure. In E. E. Jones (Ed.), Attribution: Perceiving the causes of behavior. New York: General Learning Press, 1971.Google Scholar
  18. Wilhelm, S., & Brooks, D. M. The relationship between pupil attitudes toward math and parental attitudes toward math. Educational Research Quarterly, 1980, 5, 8–16.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Doris K. Yee
    • 1
  • Jacquelynne S. Eccles
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MichiganUSA

Personalised recommendations