first grade desk IMG_4744The BBC recently reported on new research that documents the way young boys are negatively affected by gender stereotypes.

Girls believe they are cleverer, better behaved and try harder than boys from the age of four, research suggests.
By the age of eight, boys had also adopted these perceptions, the study from the University of Kent found.

Social psychologist and lead researcher, Bonny Hartley, presented children between the age of four and 10 with a series of statements describing children as being hard working, clever, and timely in the completion of the work. They then chose the silhouette of either a boy or girl depending on which gender they thought the statement most accurately described.

On average, girls of reception age right through to Year 5 said girls were cleverer, performed better, were more focused and were better behaved or more respectful, the study found.Boys in reception, Year 1 and Year 2 gave answers which were equally split between favouring boys and girls, but by Year 3 their beliefs were in line with those of the girls, the researchers said.
Ms Hartley said that children of both genders thought, in general, that adults believed that girls did better than boys at school.

Hartley also documented the immediate impact that gender expectations may have on test performance.

In a separate investigation, she tested two separate groups of children in maths, reading and writing. The first group was told that boys do not perform as well as girls, but the other was not. Boys in the first group performed “significantly worse” than in the second group, which Ms Hartley says suggests that boys’ low performance may be explained in part by low expectations.

The study demonstrates the power of socialization and speaks to the need for teachers to be particularly cognizant of vocalizing any gender-based expectations, as they may create self-fulfilling prophecies.

She also warns against the use of phrases such as “silly boys” and “school boy pranks” or teachers asking “why can’t you sit nicely like the girls?”