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Study shows boys subject to negative stereotypes in school

By Paul Nelson | Posted - Mar 6th, 2013 @ 7:57am

OREM — Are boys being treated differently at school than girls in school? In the early formative years, different treatment can lead to long term consequences.

A recent study published by the Journal of Human Resources found that stereotypes might come into play in classroom treatment of boys and girls.

"Boys get lower grades than what their test scores would suggest and girls get higher grades than what their test scores would suggest," said Jessica Van Parys, a co-author of the study, in an interview with Today. "It shows that the gender differences in education emerge very early and it points to one potential explanation for why girls are outperforming boys in years of schooling and academic achievement."

The difference may be partly due to teachers factoring their classroom behavior into those grades. Another contributing factor to differences in classroom performance could be that boys are labeled and stereotyped as problem children early on, more so than girls. A USA Today column claimed boy are more commonly labeled as naughty or difficult.

"When children get labeled, they tend to take on those labels and they become self-fulfilling prophecies."

"Boys tend to have more externalizing behaviors," said Rob Dindinger, a resident psychologist with Child and Family Psychology in Orem. "That means the stuff that is bothering them tends to be more obvious."

While young boys may wear their emotions more on their sleeves, they aren't emotionally capable of refuting an adult who is labeling them, he said.

"As a child, you rely on the adults around you to take care of all your needs, to keep you safe and help you to learn the things you need to learn," Dindinger said.

Those labels have a surprising amount of weight during their formative years.

"When children get labeled, they tend to take on those labels and they become self-fulfilling prophecies," he said.

What can teachers and parents do to correct problematic behavior in a child without labeling it? Dindinger said it's best if they focus on the child's strengths instead of their shortcomings.

"The most important thing for us is not to develop low self-worth about ourselves and our abilities," he said. "So, parents will (have to) focus in on how hard the child is working on that issue and really praise him for that."

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