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Numbers for Boys and Words for Girls? Academic Gender Stereotypes among Chinese Parents

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Academic gender stereotypes contribute to observed gender differences in educational enrollment and attainment. Investigating parents’ stereotypes among 907 families in China, this study used exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses to uncover four latent factors: boys-Math, boys-Sciences, girls-Chinese, and girls-Liberal Arts stereotypes. The former two depicted boys as more gifted, enthusiastic, and higher-achieving learners in Math and Sciences, and the latter two favored girls in Chinese and Liberal Arts. This four-factor structure was invariant across parents with sons and daughters after accounting for the nonindependence of parents within families. The boys-Math and boys-Sciences stereotypes were found to be stronger than the other two stereotypes. Further analyses revealed nuances concerning the boys-Math stereotype: it was more pronounced among mothers than fathers in families with daughters, fathers with sons than daughters, and girls’ mothers without college degrees than those with degrees. Within the same family, mothers more commonly held stereotype-consistent perceptions concerning Math and Chinese than fathers, but there was a general agreement over gendered perceptions of all four achievement domains regardless of child gender. The findings highlight the need for family-based awareness-raising programs targeting parents’ gender stereotypes to create gender-fair and gender-inclusive learning environments.

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The data that support the findings of this work are available from the corresponding author upon request.


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This work was supported by the China Scholarship Council [grant number 201708060076], and Major National Social Science Foundation Projects [grant number 20ZDZ077].

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Conceptualization: [Jing Li]; Methodology: [Jing Li, Eman Faisal, & Ahmed Al Hariri]; Formal analysis and investigation: [Jing Li, Eman Faisal, & Ahmed Al Hariri]; Writing—original draft preparation: [Jing Li]; Writing—review and editing: [Jing Li, Eman Faisal, & Ahmed Al Hariri]; Funding acquisition: [Jing Li].

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Correspondence to Jing Li.

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Ethical approval was obtained from the ethics committee of the first author’s institution before data collection and the ethical guidelines of the British Psychology Society (2018) and the British Educational Research Association (2018) were followed.

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Li, J., Faisal, E. & Al Hariri, A. Numbers for Boys and Words for Girls? Academic Gender Stereotypes among Chinese Parents. Sex Roles 87, 306–326 (2022).

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