Sex Roles

, Volume 23, Issue 11–12, pp 613–628 | Cite as

The socialization of sex-differentiated skills and academic performance: A mediational model

  • Lisa A. Serbin
  • Phyllis Zelkowitz
  • Anna-Beth Doyle
  • Dolores Gold
  • Blair Wheaton


Using a multifactorial model, sex differences in academic performance were examined in a sample of 347 elementary school children. As expected, girls' academic performance averaged higher than boys'. Path analysis confirmed initial hypotheses that girls' advantage is partially due to their characteristic of greater responsiveness to social cues and compliance with adult direction. This advantage was partially offset in this model by boys' greater visual-spatial skill, which also was a predictor of academic success. Access to stereotypic masculine toys and activities at home was, for both sexes, a predictor of children's visual-spatial ability. As expected, socioeconomic variables, including mothers' occupation and fathers' level of education, also influenced the environmental, social, and cognitive factors predicting academic success. These results indicate that boys' and girls' differential development of specific cognitive and social skills may play an important role in establishing sex differences in academic performance.


Elementary School Social Skill School Child Academic Performance Differential Development 
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.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alwin, D. F., & Hauser, R. M. (1975). The decomposition of effects in path analysis. American Sociological Review, 40, 37–47.Google Scholar
  2. Benbow, C., & Stanley, J. (1980). Sex differences in mathematical ability: Fact or artifact? Science, 210, 1262–1264.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Benninger, M., & Newcombe, N. (1989). The role of experience in spatial test performance: A meta-analysis. Sex Roles, 20, 327–344.Google Scholar
  4. Carpenter, J. C., & Huston-Stein, A. (1980). Activity, structure, and sex-typed behaviour in preschool children. Child Development, 51, 862–872.Google Scholar
  5. Chipman, S., & Thomas, V. G. (1985). Women's participation in mathematics: Outlining the problem. In S. Chipman, L. Brush, & D. Wilson (Eds.), Women and mathematics: Balancing the euqation. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  6. Connor, J. M., Schackman, M., & Serbin, L. A. (1978). Sex related differences in response to practice on a visual spatial test and generalization to a related test. Child Development, 49, 24–29.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Connor, J. M., & Serbin, L. A. (1977). Behaviorally based masculine and feminine activity preference scales for preschoolers: Correlates with other classroom behaviors and cognitive tests. Child Development, 48, 1411–1416.Google Scholar
  8. Connor, J. M., Serbin, L. A., & Schackman, M. (1977). Sex differences in response to training on a visual spatial test. Developmental Psychology, 13, 293–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Crombie, G., & Gold, D. (1989). Compliance and social problem solving competence in girls and boys. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 150, 281–291.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Douhitt, R. A. (1989). The division of labor within the home: Have gender roles changed? Sex Roles, 20, 693–704.Google Scholar
  11. Fenema, E., & Sherman, J. (1977). Sex related differences in mathematics achievement, spatial visualization, and affective factors. American Educational Research Journal, 14, 51–71.Google Scholar
  12. Fenema, E., & Tartre, L. A. (1985). The use of spatial visualization in mathematics by boys and girls. Journal of Research in Mathematics and Education, 16, 184–206.Google Scholar
  13. Gaulin, S. J., & Hoffman, H. A. (1987). Evolution and development of sex differences in spatial ability. In L. L. Betzig, M. Borgerhoff Mulder, and P. W. Turke (Eds.), Human reproductive behaviour: A Darwinian perspective. Cambridge, Great Britain: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Hines, M. C. (1982). Prenatal gonadal hormones and sex differences in human behavior. Psychological Bulletin, 92, 56–80.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Hollingshead, A. B. (1975). A 4 Factor Index of Social Status. Available from A. B. Hollingshead, Department of Sociology, Yale University, Post Office Box 1965, New Haven, CT.Google Scholar
  16. Huston, A. (1983). Sex typing. In P. H. Mussen (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology (Vol. 4, 3rd ed.). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  17. Huston, A. C., Carpenter, J. C., Atwater, J. B., & Johnson, L. M. (1986). Gender adult structuring of activities and social behavior in middle childhood. Child Development, 57, 1200–1209.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Johnson, E. S., & Meade, A. C. (1987). Developmental patterns of spatial ability: An early sex difference. Child Development, 58, 725–740.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Linn, M. C., & Petersen, A. C. (1985). Emergence and characterization of sex differences in spatial ability: A meta-analysis. Child Development, 56, 1479–1498.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Marshall, S., & Smith, J. (1987). Sex differences in learning mathematics: A longitudinal study with item and error analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology, 79, 372–383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Newcombe, N., Bandura, M., & Taylor, D. (1983). Sex differences in spatial ability and spatial activities. Sex Roles, 9, 377–386.Google Scholar
  22. Orlofsky, J. L. (1981). The relationship between sex role attitudes and personality traits and the sex role behavior scale-1: A new measure of masculine and feminine role behavior interest. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 40, 927–940.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. O'Brien, M., & Huston, A. C. (1985). Development of sex-typed behaviors in toddlers. Developmental Psychology, 21, 866–871.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Pallas, A. M., & Alexander, K. L. (1983). Sex differences in quantitative SAT performance: New evidence on the differential coursework hypothesis. American Educational Research Journal, 20, 165–182.Google Scholar
  25. Pedhazur, E. J. (1982). Multiple regression in behavioral research (2nd ed.). New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.Google Scholar
  26. Rheingold, H. L., & Cook, K. V. (1975). The contents of boys and girls rooms as an index of parental behavior. Child Development, 46, 459–463.Google Scholar
  27. Rosenthal, R., & Rubin, D. B. (1982). Further meta-analytic procedures for assessing cognitive gender differences. Journal of Educational Psychology, 74, 708–712.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Schaefer, E. S., & Aronson, M. R. (1966). Child Behavior Inventory: Preschool to primary. Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Mental Health.Google Scholar
  29. Serbin, L. A., & Connor, J. M. (1979). Sex typing of children's play preferences and patterns of cognitive performance. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 134, 315–316.Google Scholar
  30. Sherman, J. (1967). Problems of sex differences in space perception and aspects of intelligence. Psychological Review, 74, 290–299.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Sherman, J. (1978). Sex role effects on cognition. In J. A. Sherman (Ed.). Sex related cognitive differences: An essay on theory and evidence. Springfield, IL: Charles Thomas.Google Scholar
  32. Signorella, M. L., Jamieson, W., & Rupa, M. H. (1989). Predicting spatial performance from gender stereotypes in activity preference and self concept. Developmental Psychology, 25, 89–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Silvern, L. E. (1978). Masculinity-femininity in children's self concepts: The relationship to teachers' judgments social adjustment and academic ability, classroom behaviour and popularity. Sex Roles, 4, 929–949.Google Scholar
  34. Wechsler, D. (1974). Manual for the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Revised. New York: Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa A. Serbin
    • 1
  • Phyllis Zelkowitz
    • 1
  • Anna-Beth Doyle
    • 1
  • Dolores Gold
    • 1
  • Blair Wheaton
    • 2
  1. 1.Center for Research in Human Development and Department of PsychologyConcordia UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.McGill UniversityCanada

Personalised recommendations