Gender Stereotype That Reading Is for Girls Linked to Worse Test Scores in Boys

Boys whose classmates think reading is for girls are more likely to perform poorly in this area, a study suggests.

To conduct the study, researchers quizzed a total of 1,508 fifth-grade students in 60 classes in Germany, who had an average age of 10. The children filled out questionnaires in which they ranked whether they thought boys or girls were better at reading, which gender read more, and which gender had more fun doing so. They also rated their own enjoyment and skill in the activity, and completed reading tests.

Past studies have suggested the stereotypes that reading is for girls and maths is for boys are pervasive, so the researchers wanted to see if this could contribute to a gap in skills, they explained in the paper published in the journal Child Development.

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The study revealed that boys who believed gender stereotypes about reading were less likely to see themselves as competent and motivated in this regard. They also found boys whose classmates thought reading was for girls not only had similar attitudes about themselves, but also appeared to perform worse in tests. The gender stereotype didn't appear to affect girls positively or negatively.

However, the authors acknowledged that their findings don't prove that gender stereotypes make boys worse at reading, and said their data might not be accurate as they relied on the children's honesty.

Lead author of the study Francesca Muntoni, postdoctoral research associate at Germany's University of Hamburg, said in a statement: "It's a cycle of sorts.

"Reading is first stereotyped as a female domain. This and other gender stereotypes that emphasize that girls are more competent in reading than boys significantly affect boys by causing them to devalue their actual reading ability while also having less motivation to read, which in turn impairs their reading performance."

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Co-author Jan Retelsdorf, professor of the psychology of learning and instruction at the University of Hamburg, said: "To reduce socially determined gender disparities in reading, it may help to create classroom contexts that discourage students from acting on their stereotypical beliefs.

"Teachers and parents might consider socializing boys and girls in ways that reduce stereotypical behaviors, and students could become aware of their gender stereotypes to counteract their effects on other students' outcomes and to create a gender-fair learning environment," said Retelsdorf.

The study is the latest to examine how gender stereotypes affect young people. Late last year, a separate team of researchers found teaching teenage boys about gender equality could prevent them from being violent.

A total of 866 teenage boys aged between 13 and 19 years who were from low-income neighborhoods in Pittsburgh took part in the study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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Gender Stereotype That Reading Is for Girls Linked to Worse Test Scores in Boys | Tech & Science