Twitter Facebook RSS Feed Print
Your Child

Young Girls Less Likely to See Women as “Really, Really Smart”

2:00

One of the surprise box office hits this year is “Hidden Figures.” It’s based on the true story of a team of female African-American mathematicians at NASA in the late 50s and early 60s that helped launch the first U.S. astronaut into space. The women were brilliant but faced enormous challenges for acceptance because of their race and gender.

According to a new study, you might could say that there are millions of "hidden figures" in who young girls and boys’ perceive as someone who is “really, really smart.”

Researchers wanted to try and figure out why women are underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, fields. While most women make the decision to pursue these courses in high school or college, the scientists found that children develop a stereotype of which gender is naturally smarter early in life.

The study involved 400 children, aged 5 to 7 and included a story told by Lin Bian, a co-author and psychologist at the University of Illinois.

“There are lots of people at the place where I work, but there is one person who is really special. This person is really, really smart,” said Bian. “This person figures out how to do things quickly and comes up with answers much faster and better than anyone else. This person is really, really smart.”

She then showed them pictures of four adults—two men and two women—and asked them to guess which was the protagonist of the story. She also gave them two further tests: one in which they had to guess which adult in a pair was “really, really smart”, and another where they had to match attributes like “smart” or “nice” to pictures of unfamiliar men and women.

The results were revealing.  The 5 year-old boys and girls associated the “smart” person with their own gender. But among those aged 6 or 7, only the boys still held to that view. At an age when girls tend to outperform boys at school, and when children in general show large positive biases towards their own in-groups, the girls became less likely than boys to attribute brilliance to their own gender.

As the boys continued to believe in their own intelligence, the girls – on average – tended to see everyone on more equal terms.

Bian also found that the older girls were less interested in games that were meant for “really, really smart” children.

The stereotype that brilliance and genius are male traits is common among adults. In various surveys, men rate their intelligence more favorably than women, and in a recent study of biology undergraduates, men overrated the abilities of male students above equally talented and outspoken women.

Bian’s study suggests that the seeds of this bias are planted at a very early age. Even by the age of 6, boys and girls are already diverging in who they think is smart.

The findings could help illuminate the challenge schools face in combating gender stereotypes, even though girls often outperform boys in school. Girls drop out of high school at a lower rate than boys. Women are more likely than men to enroll in college, and they earn more college degrees each year than men.

Other games were played and social tests were given during the study with similar results. The 5 year-olds were equally interested in participating, but the 6 and 7 year-old girls were less interested in the ones that relied on “being smart.” Both genders were attracted to the games requiring persistence and hard work.

In today’s business and scientific world, more educators, policymakers and corporations are making an effort to include women in leadership roles, but breaking through the stereotypes developed at such a young age can hinder girls and women in those and other disciplines.

Children model what they see. If they are raised in an environment that diminishes young girls’ achievements but rewards young boys for the same achievements, it often sets up a life-long struggle for them to feel and accept their own self-value. 

Teachers also play an important role in encouraging all children to reach their highest achievement level.

Young girls, as well as young boys, should be recognized for their intelligence and encouraged to pursue science, technology, engineering and math studies – the rest of the world will benefit.

The research can't explain how these messages are getting to kids or how they could be changed, says Andrei Cimpian, a professor of psychology at New York University and an author of the study, He is planning a long-term study of young children that would measure environmental factors, including media exposure and parental beliefs. That would give a better idea of what factors predict the emergence of stereotypes, and what levers are available to change attitudes.

The study was published in the journal Science.

Story sources:  Ed Yong, https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/01/six-year-old-girls-already-have-gendered-beliefs-about-intelligence/514340/

Katherine Hobson, http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/01/26/511801423/young-girls-are-less-apt-to-think-women-are-really-really-smart

Nick Anderson, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2017/01/26/research-shows-young-girls-are-less-likely-to-think-of-women-as-really-really-smart/?utm_term=.fc30e9030500&wpisrc=nl_sb_smartbrief

 

Parenting

Does Time Spent With Dad Make Babies Smarter?

1:30

A new study suggests that not only do dads play an important role in a baby’s social development; time spent with dad may actually increase baby’s I.Q.

In a small British study, researchers looked at how 128 fathers interacted with their infants at 3 months of age. When the kids turned 2, the researchers measured their mental development.

They found that infants whose fathers were engaged and active during play time, within the first few months of the baby’s life, did better on thinking skills tests at age 2 than other infants.

Many factors have a major influence a child's development, and this study wasn't designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship. But these findings suggest that father-child interactions at a young age are an influencing factor, the researchers said.

Researchers noted that dad’s interactions had a positive influence on thinking skills for both boys and girls.

"Even as early as 3 months, these father-child interactions can positively predict cognitive development almost two years later, so there's something probably quite meaningful for later development, and that really hasn't been shown much before," study leader Paul Ramchandani said in an Imperial College London news release. He is a professor at the school's department of medicine.

Study co-author Vaheshta Sethna said, "We also found that children interacting with sensitive, calm and less anxious fathers during a book session at the age of 2 showed better cognitive development, including attention, problem-solving, language and social skills." She's with the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King's College London.

"Our findings highlight the importance of supporting fathers to interact more positively with their children in early infancy," Sethna said.

While dads may not always garner the attention moms and babies do, the positive impact that devoted and engaged fathers have, is immeasurable on their little one’s life.

The study was published recently in Infant Mental Health Journal.

Story source: Robert Preidt, https://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/child-development-news-124/does-dad-time-with-infants-boost-babies-iq-723168.html

Please fill in your e-mail address to be included in our newsletter.
You may opt out at any time.

 

DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

When should you keep your child home from school?

Please fill in your e-mail address to be included in our newsletter.
You may opt out at any time.

 

Please fill in your e-mail address to be included in our newsletter.
You may opt out at any time.