The days of girls questioning their skills and intelligence may be coming to an end, if a recent study from Britain is to be believed.
The BBC reports that researchers from Britain’s University of Kent gave children between four and 10 a variety of statements like, “this child is really clever” and “this child always finishes their work.” The kids were supposed to point to a picture of a boy or a girl depending on who they thought better matched the statement. Girls of all ages “said girls were cleverer, performed better, were more focused and were better behaved or more respectful,” while boys started out giving evenly divided answers, but as they got older came to agree with girls. Another study tested kids’ math, reading, and writing skills — one group was told beforehand that boys usually did worse on the test, while the other was not. Unsurprisingly, boys in the first group did perform significantly worse.
Of course, no one wants boys to suffer self-esteem problems, either. And that appears to be what this study is pointing to. As Broadsheet points out:
This will hardly surprise anyone who has paid attention to the wealth of studies showing the devastating impact stereotypes can have on girls when it comes to math. Even subtle reminders of gender — “male” or “female” check boxes, for example — can hurt girls’ test scores, and of course the same is true for boys. Lead researcher Bonny Hartley explains: “There are signs that these expectations have the potential to become self-fulfilling in influencing children’s actual conduct and achievement.” She warns teachers to avoid pitting the boys against the girls and using diminishing sayings like “silly boys” or “schoolboy pranks.”
Still, I feel a little less concern over the boys, who thus far haven’t been subjected to a barrage of toys that tell them that their gender is less intelligent than the other.
The defining feature of this study is also proves that if your child is exposed repeatedly to idea that he or she is smart, that child will believe it. It’s up to parents to build self-confidence, and for the rest of society to at least attempt not to chip away at it.
Growing smart, confident girls is our responsibility, and should be our pleasure as well. And we can do it without cutting down boys, as well.