Parents underrate their daughters

9th May 2003 at 01:00
GIRLS underestimate their academic abilities because their parents do, new research suggests.

While teachers accurately assess pupils' abilities, children and their parents underestimate how well girls are doing - even when they are clearly outpacing the boys, academics at Stanford University, California, have discovered.

The researchers analysed test data on 334 low-income students from kindergarten through to fifth grade (age 10 to 11). By third grade, girls rated their maths abilities lower than boys did, even though there was no difference in their achievement. Teachers' ratings showed no gender differences, but parents said boys were better at maths in both third and fifth grades.

Over time, girls' judgments of their maths abilities became even more aligned with their parents', rather than relating to their actual abilities and teachers' assessments.

In literacy, where boys lagged behind girls at both third and fifth grade, children and parents did not rate girls better.

"The findings point to parents as possible culprits in girls'

underestimation of their abilities," conclude the Stanford trio.

"Conventional gender stereotypes may influence child and parent ratings of mathematical ability early, and may contribute to the later decline in girls' actual mathematical achievement."

"Gender differences in perceptions of ability in elementary school students: the role of parents, teachers and achievement", Jennifer Herbert, Deborah Stipek and Sarah Miles, Stanford University. Contact jenherb@stanford.edu

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