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

Abstract

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.

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Correspondence to Lisa A. Serbin.

Additional information

The authors would like to thank the children and families who participated in this project, and the principals and teachers of the participating schools of the Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal. We would also like to thank Brenda Kenyon for her help with the preparation of the manuscript. This research was carried out with support from a grant from the S.S.H.R.C. of Canada. Dr. Wheaton is now at the University of Toronto and Dr. Zelkowitz is now at the Institute of Community and Family Psychiatry, Sir Mortimer B. Davis Jewish General Hospital, Montreal.

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Serbin, L.A., Zelkowitz, P., Doyle, AB. et al. The socialization of sex-differentiated skills and academic performance: A mediational model. Sex Roles 23, 613–628 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00289251

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Keywords

  • Elementary School
  • Social Skill
  • School Child
  • Academic Performance
  • Differential Development