Sex Roles

, Volume 68, Issue 3–4, pp 231–238 | Cite as

Preschool Children’s Beliefs about Gender Differences in Academic Skills

Original Article

Abstract

Evidence from different Latin American countries shows a gap in the academic achievement of girls and boys. Chilean children’s achievement is a case in point, with the gender gap being especially large for mathematics achievement. These differences can be explained partly from the viewpoint of beliefs and implicit theories. Research in this field has focused mainly on elementary and secondary students, and there is no relevant data on preschool children. This study examines Chilean kindergarten children’s beliefs about differences in the academicals skills of girls and boys. Eighty-one preschool children (34 girls, mean age 5 years and 11 months) were recruited from schools serving a middle SES population from downtown Santiago. An instrument to test children’s implicit beliefs about gender differences in academic ability was adapted from previous research. Results support the hypothesis that boys and girls at the age of 5 already hold stereotypical expectations about boys’ and girls’ academic achievement. When asked about which school subject a character liked more, was better at, and found easier, participants showed no preference between math and language when reasoning about a male character, but they indicated that a female character would find math harder, perform worse at it, and like it less than language. These responses did not differ according to the gender of the participating children. Implications of these findings are addressed and limitations and future research are discussed.

Keywords

Kindergarten Gender gap Stereotypes Academic ability 

References

  1. Alexander, G. M., Wilcox, T., & Woods, R. (2009). Sex differences in infants’visual interest in toys. Archives of Sex Behavior, 38, 427–433. doi:10.1007/s10508-008-9430-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ambady, N., Shih, M., Kim, A., & Pittinsky, T. (2001). Stereotype susceptibility in children: Effects of identity activation on quantitative performance. Psychological Science, 12, 385–390. doi:10.1111/1467-9280.00371.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berg, D. H., & Klinger, D. A. (2009). Gender differences in the relationship between academic self-concept and self-reported depressed mood in school children. Sex Roles, 61, 501–509. doi:10.1007/s11199-009-9652-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blázquez, C., Álvarez, P., Bronfman, N., & Espinosa, J. (2009). Factores que influencian la motivación de escolares por las áreas tecnológicas e ingeniería [School children motivational factors for technological and engineering fields]. Calidad en la Educación, 31, 46–64. Retrieved from http://www.cned.cl/public/Secciones/SeccionRevistaCalidad/doc/64/cse_articulo833.pdf.Google Scholar
  5. Cherney, I. D., & London, K. (2006). Gender-linked differences in toys, television shows, computer games, and outdoor activities of 5 to 13 year old children. Sex Roles, 54, 717–726. doi:10.1007/s11199-006-9037-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cvencek, D., Meltzoff, A., & Greenwald, A. (2011). Math-Gender stereotypes in elementary school children. Child Development, 82, 766–779. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01529.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Eccles, J. S., Wigfield, A., Harold, R. D., & Blumenfeld, P. (1993). Age and gender differences in children’s self and task perceptions during elementary school. Child Development, 64, 830–847. doi:10.2307/1131221.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Else-Quest, N. M., Hyde, J. S., & Linn, M. C. (2010). Cross-national patterns of gender differences in mathematics: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 136, 103–27. doi:10.1037/a0018053.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Forde, C. (2008). Gender in an inclusion agenda: Boys first, girls first? In C. Forde (Ed.), Tackling gender Inequality: Raising pupil achievement (pp. 1–13). Scotland: Dunedin Academic Press.Google Scholar
  10. Fredricks, J. A., & Eccles, J. S. (2002). Children’s competence and value beliefs from childhood through adolescence: Growth trajectories in two male-sextyped domains. Developmental Psychology, 38, 519–533. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.38.4.519.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gelman, S., Collman, P., & Maccoby, E. (1986). Inferring properties from categories versus inferring categories from properties: The case of gender. Child Development, 57, 396–404. doi:10.2307/1130595.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Giles, J. W., & Heyman, G. D. (2005). Young children’s beliefs about the relationship between gender and aggressive behavior. Child Development, 76, 107–121. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2005.00833.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gneezy, U., Niederle, M., & Rustichini, A. (2003). Performance in competitive environments: Gender differences. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 118, 1049–1074. doi:10.1162/00335530360698496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Guerrero, E., Provoste, P., & Valdés, A. (2006). La desigualdad olvidada: género y educación en Chile. En Equidad de Género y Reformas Educativas [The forgotten inequality: Gender and education in Chile. In Gender Equality and Educational Reforms]. Santiago de Chile: Hexagrama.Google Scholar
  15. Guiso, L., Monte, F., Sapienza, P., & Zingales, L. (2008). Diversity, culture, gender, and math. Science, 320, 1164–1165. doi:10.1126/science.1154094.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Haworth, C. M., Dale, P. S., & Plomin, R. (2009). Sex differences and science: The etiology of science excellence. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 50, 1113–1120. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2009.02087.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Herbert, J., & Stipek, D. (2005). The emergence of gender differences in children’s perceptions of their academic Competence. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology: An International Lifespan Journal, 26, 276–295. doi:10.1016/j.appdev.2005.02.007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Heyman, G. D., & Legare, C. H. (2004). Children’s beliefs about gender differences in the academic and social domains. Sex Roles, 50, 227–239. doi:10.1023/B:SERS.0000015554.12336.30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hyde, J. S., Fennema, E., & Lamon, S. J. (1990). Gender differences in mathematics performance: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 107, 139–155. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.107.2.139.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hyde, J. S., Lindberg, S. M., Linn, M. C., Ellis, A. B., & Williams, C. C. (2008). Gender similarities characterize math performance. Science, 321, 494–495. doi:10.1126/science.1160364.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kohler, J. (2009). Rendimiento académico asociado a la autoeficacia de estudiantes de 4to y 5to año de secundaria de un colegio nacional de Lima [Relationship between academic achievement and auto-efficacy in 4th to 5th secondary students of a national school in Lima]. Cultura, 23, 101–119.Google Scholar
  22. Kurtz-Costes, B., Rowley, S. J., Harris-Britt, A., & Woods, T. A. (2008). Gender stereotypes about mathematics and science and self-perceptions of ability in late childhood and early adolescence. Merrill Palmer Quarterly, 54, 386–409. doi:10.1353/mpq.0.0001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lamb, L. M., Bigler, R. S., Liben, L. S., & Green, V. A. (2009). Teaching children to confront peers’ sexist remarks: Implications for theories of gender development and educational practice. Sex Roles, 61, 361–382. doi:10.1007/s11199-009-9634-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Leahey, E., & Guo, G. (2001). Gender differences in mathematical trajectories. Social Forces, 80, 713–732. doi:10.1353/sof.2001.0102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Levy, G., Sadovsky, A., & Troseth, G. (2000). Aspects of young children’s perceptions of gender-typed occupations. Sex Roles, 42, 993–1006. doi:10.1023/A:1007084516910.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lindberg, S. M., Hyde, J. S., Petersen, J. L., & Linn, M. C. (2010). New trends in gender and mathematics performance: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 136, 1123–1135. doi:10.1037/a0021276.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Maccoby, E. E. (1998). The two sexes: Growing up apart, coming together. Cambridge: Belknap.Google Scholar
  28. Maccoby, E. E. (2002). Gender and group process: A developmental perspective. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11, 54–58. doi:10.1111/1467-8721.00167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Marsh, H. W., Trautwein, U., Ludtke, O., Koller, O., & Baumert, J. (2005). Academic self-concept, interest, grades, and standardized test scores: Reciprocal effects models of causal ordering. Child Development, 76, 397–416. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2005.00853.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Measurement System of Education Quality (SIMCE) (2008). Resultados nacionales SIMCE 2007. [National results SIMCE 2007]. Santiago, Chile. Retrieved from http://mt.educarchile.cl/MT/jjbrunner/archives/libros/SIMCE/SIMCE_2007.pdf.
  31. Measurement System of Education Quality (SIMCE) (2009). Resultados nacionales SIMCE 2008. [National results SIMCE 2008]. Santiago, Chile. Retrieved from http://www.simce.cl/fileadmin/Documentos_y_archivos_SIMCE/Informes_Resultados_2008/Informe_Nacional_2008.pdf.
  32. Measurement System of Education Quality (SIMCE) (2010). Resultados nacionales SIMCE 2009. [National results SIMCE 2009]. Santiago, Chile. Retrieved from http://www.simce.cl/fileadmin/Documentos_y_archivos_SIMCE/Informes_Resultados_2009/Informe_Nacional_2009.pdf.
  33. Meece, J. L., Glienke, B. B., & Burg, S. (2006). Gender and motivation. Journal of School Psychology, 44, 351–373. doi:10.1016/j.jsp.2006.04.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Miller, C. F., Lurye, L. E., Zosuls, K. M., & Ruble, D. N. (2009). Accessibility of gender stereotype domains: Developmental and gender differences in children. Sex Roles, 60, 870–881. doi:10.1007/s11199-009-9584-x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Ministry of Education (2011). Noticias. [News]. Santiago, Chile. Retrieved from http://www.mineduc.cl/index2.php?id_portal=1&id_seccion=10&id_contenido=13142.
  36. National Women Service (SERNAM). (2008). Análisis de Género en el Aula. [Gender analysis in the classroom]. Retrieved from http://estudios.sernam.cl/documentos/?eMTE0NDczNw==Análisis_de_Genero_en_el_Aula._.
  37. Norman, G. (2010). Likert scales, levels of measurement and the “laws” of statistics. Advances in Health Sciences Education: Theory and Practice, 15, 625–632. doi:10.1007/s10459-010-9222-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Nosek, B., Smyth, F., Sriram, N., & Lindner, N. (2009). National differences in gender-science stereotypes predict national sex differences in science and math achievement. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106, 10593–10597. doi:10.1073/pnas.0809921106.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. OECD (2010), PISA 2009 Results: Executive Summary. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/34/60/46619703.pdf.
  40. Sánchez, M., Suárez, M., Manzano, N., Oliveros, L., Lozano, S., Fernández, B., et al. (2011). Estereotipos de género y valores sobre el trabajo entre los estudiantes españoles. [Gender stereotypes and values about work in Spanish students]. Revista de Educación, 355, 331–354. doi:10-4438/1988-592X-RE-2011-355-027.Google Scholar
  41. Serbin, L. A., Poulin-Dubois, D., & Eichstedt, J. A. (2002). Infant’s responses to gender-inconsistent events. Infancy, 4, 531–542. doi:10.1207/S15327078IN0304_07.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Skaalvik, S., & Skaalvik, E. M. (2004). Gender differences in math and verbal self-concept, performance expectations, and motivation. Sex Roles, 50, 241–252. doi:10.1023/B:SERS.0000015555.40976.e6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Superior Council of Education (2005). Educación Superior y Género: tendencias observadas. [College Education and Gender: Observed trends]. Santiago, Chile. Retrieved from http://www.cned.cl/public/secciones/SeccionPublicaciones/Publicaciones_Ver_art.aspx?idPub=52&idArt=475&nomArt=EducaciónSuperioryGénero.TendenciasObservadas.&nomPub=EstudiosyDocumentos.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EducationUniversidad Diego Portales de ChileSantiagoChile
  2. 2.School of PsychologyPontificia Universidad Católica de ChileSantiagoChile

Personalised recommendations