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Preschool Children’s Beliefs about Gender Differences in Academic Skills

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.

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Correspondence to M. Francisca del Río.

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del Río, M.F., Strasser, K. Preschool Children’s Beliefs about Gender Differences in Academic Skills. Sex Roles 68, 231–238 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-012-0195-6

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Keywords

  • Kindergarten
  • Gender gap
  • Stereotypes
  • Academic ability