14 SES 08 A, The Role of Parents in Reading, STEM and Career Adaptability
It has been determined that girls have less confidence in their own STEM abilities, show less interest towards STEM, experience STEM less positive than boys and have lower aspirations towards STEM careers (Catsambis, 1995; Su, Rounds, & Armstrong, 2009). Consequently, women are less represented in different STEM professions (NSF, 2013). First it was believed that the reason for girls under-representation in STEM is because of boys' better science and math academic achievement and better scores in science and math standardised tests. However, recent studies show that girls have equal (often better) science and math academic achievement and similar scores on standardised tests (Mullis, Martin, & Loveless, 2016). So, that kind of explanations for under-representation of women in STEM are now abandoned and focus have shifted towards gender stereotypes as potential explanation. Different studies have determined that students and parents have stereotypical beliefs that math and science are more appropriate for boys and that boys are naturally more talented for it (Cvencek, Meltzoff, & Greenwald, 2011; Frome & Eccles, 1998). Even though boys and girls share these stereotypical beliefs, boys hold much stronger views (Fennema & Sherman, 1978). Stronger gender stereotypes about math and science are correlated with more negative math attitudes for women but more positive math attitudes for men (Nosek, Banaji, & Greenwald, 2002). These stereotypical beliefs about male STEM superiority are present even in lower grades of primary school (Ambady, Shih, Kim, & Pittinsky, 2001) and is believed that parents as socializing role models for their children contribute shaping those beliefs (Wigfield & Eccles, 2000). The expectancy-value theoretical framework (Jacobs & Eccles, 2000) states that parents transfer their expectations and beliefs onto their behavior towards children which then shapes children's expectations and beliefs about the world and themselves, which in return influences their outcomes. The importance of parental beliefs and expectations in shaping the child's outcomes is best described by the study that showed that parental expectations about their childs' success in math better predicted childs' outcomes than childs' own performance (Frome & Eccles, 1998). Also, it was shown that parents' gender stereotypes about math had long-term effects on childs' career choices (Bleeker & Jacobs, 2004; Jacobs, Chinn, & Bleeker, 2006). Daughters of mothers with stronger stereotypes about male math superiority and natural talent showed less aspirations for careers in science. Another factor which determines child’s outcomes, in more direct way than parents’ beliefs, is parents’ behavior (Jacobs & Eccles, 2000). Studies have shown that parental behavior, such as provision of science and math toys and games are often stereotype-consistent (Jacobs, Davis-Kean, Bleeker, Eccles, & Malanchuk, 2005). Mothers more often bought science and math tools, toys and games for their sons than their daughters, regardless of their school grades.
As the research reviewed above suggests, both children's and parents' math and science stereotypical beliefs lead to higher STEM aspirations for boys and lower STEM aspirations for girls. Also, regarding expectancy-value theoretical framework it is expected that parents provision of STEM material (toys, tools etc.) as a form of parents' behavior will have stronger and more direct influence on STEM aspirations than parents' gender stereotypes as general parents' beliefs. The present research will therefore bring a specific theoretical contribution by investigating how parents’ and children’s gender stereotypes and parents provision of STEM materials predicts STEM aspirations among boys and girls.
Participants Participants were 328 Croatian primary school pupils from seventh grade and their parents. Measures Alongside a gender variable, the following measures were used. STEM aspirations were assessed via 8 five point Likert scale statements (1 = Strongly Disagree, 5 = Strongly Agree) that indicate the future intent of having a career in STEM. Total score was calculated by averaging students’ ratings, where higher score indicates higher STEM aspirations. Parents’ STEM stereotyped beliefs were assessed via a list of STEM school subjects covered by the curriculum (Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Math, Technical Education and Computer Science). Responses were given on a five point Likert scale from 1 (girls are more naturally talented) to 5 (boys are more naturally talented). The midpoint of the scale (3) indicated the belief that for a given subject girls and boys are equally talented. Total score was calculated as an index of stereotypical beliefs by averaging parents' ratings for STEM subjects. High score on this measure indicates that parents consider boys more naturally talented for STEM subjects. Parental provision of STEM materials was assessed via 13 yes or no questions which indicated does the child have access to specific STEM material in their home (toys, tools, books, software etc.). Total score was calculated as a sum of the items, where higher score indicates higher provision of STEM materials. Children’s STEM stereotyped beliefs were assessed via a list of the same aforementioned STEM school subjects covered by the curriculum. Responses were given on a five point Likert scale from 1 (more suitable for girls) to 5 (more suitable for boys). The midpoint of the scale (3) indicated the belief that a given subject is equally suitable for both genders. Total score was calculated as an index of stereotypical beliefs by averaging students' ratings for STEM subjects. High scores on this measure indicated that students considered STEM subjects as more appropriate for men than for women. Procedure Data were collected in Croatian primary schools during the second testing phase of the larger JOBSTEM research project. The questionnaires were administered to the students in their own classrooms in a paper and pen format during school hours. The testing for the whole questionnaire, in which the scales described above were embedded, took two successive school periods (2 x 45 minutes). Each testing session was overseen by researchers, who read the preliminary instructions out loud and answered any questions.
Conducted hierarchical regression analysis with three blocks of predictors (parents’ STEM stereotyped beliefs; parental provision of STEM materials; children’s STEM stereotyped beliefs) accounted for 12,4% of the total variance in boy’s STEM aspirations and 12,0% in girl’s STEM aspirations. In boy’s sample almost all of the results followed research expectations: all three blocks of predictors were statistically significant (p < .05); parents’ stereotyped beliefs explained 4%, provision of STEM materials 3% and children’s stereotyped beliefs 5% of boy’s STEM aspirations. Children’s stereotyped beliefs were the best predictor of boy’s STEM aspirations (β = 0.23, p = .002), then follows parents’ stereotyped beliefs (β = 0.17, p = .020) and provision of STEM material (β = 0.16, p = .028). Thus, boys who believe that STEM is more appropriate for boys than for girls, have parents with the same STEM stereotyped beliefs and that provide more STEM materials will have higher STEM aspirations. Only unexpected result was regarding the importance of provision of STEM materials which was expected to be a stronger predictor than parents’ gender stereotypes. It seems that parents’ STEM stereotyped beliefs have a direct and indirect effect on boys STEM aspirations. In the girl’s sample, we got somewhat unexpected results: only provision of STEM materials was statistically significant predictor (β = 0.34, p < .001) that explained 11,6% of total variance of girls’ STEM aspirations. So, it seems that neither the parents’ neither the girl’s stereotyped beliefs explain their STEM aspirations. One of the explanations can be found in the construct of aspiration which can be idealistic and realistic in nature (Haller, 1968). It seems that gender stereotypes don’t determine those idealistic aspirations among girls. Also, the results emphasize the importance of ensuring enough STEM materials at home for girls.
Ambady, N., Shih, M., Kim, A., & Pittinsky, T. L. (2001). Stereotype susceptibility in children: Effects of identity activation on quantitative performance. Psychological Science, 12(5), 385-390. Bleeker, M. M., & Jacobs, J. E. (2004). Achievement in math and science: Do mothers’ beliefs matter 12 years later? Journal of Educational Psychology, 96(1), 97-109. Catsambis, S. (1995). Gender, race, ethnicity, and science education in the middle grades. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 32(3), 243-257. Cvencek, D., Meltzoff, A. N., & Greenwald, A. G. (2011). Math–gender stereotypes in elementary school children. Child development, 82(3), 766-779. Fennema, E., & Sherman, J. A. (1978). Sex-related differences in mathematics achievement and related factors: A further study. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 9(3), 189-203. Frome, P. M., & Eccles, J. S. (1998) Parents’ influence on children’s achievement-related perceptions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(2), 435–452. Haller, A. O. (1968). On the concept of aspiration. Rural Sociology, 33(4), 484-487. Jacobs, J., Chin, C., & Bleeker, M. (2006). Enduring links: Parents' expectations and their young adult children's gender-typed occupational choices. Educational Research and Evaluation, 12, 395-407. Jacobs, J.E., Davis-Kean, P., Bleeker, M., Eccles, J.S., & Malanchuk, O. (2005). I can, but I don't want to: The impact of parents, interests, and activities on gender differences in math. U A. Gallagher, J. Kaufman (Ed.), Gender Differences in Mathematics (pp. 246-263). Cambridge University Press. Jacobs, J.E., & Eccles, J.S. (2000). Parents, task values, and real-life achievement related choices. U C. Sansone, J.M. Harackiewicz (Ed.), Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: The search for optimal motivation and performance (pp. 405-439). San Diego: Academic Press. Mullis, I. V. S., Martin, M. O., & Loveless, T. (2016). 20 years of TIMSS: International trends in mathematics and science achievement, curriculum, and instruction. Chestnut Hill, MA: Boston College. National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. (2013). Women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science and engineering: 2013. Special Report NSF 13-304. Arlington, VA. Nosek, B. A., Banaji, M. R., & Greenwald, A. G. (2002). Math = male, me = female, therefore math ≠ me. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(1), 44–59. Su, R., Rounds, J., & Armstrong, P. I. (2009). Men and Things, Women and People: A Meta-analysis of Sex Differences in Interests. Psychological Bulletin, 135(6), 859-884. Wigfield, A., & Eccles, J.S. (2000). Expectancy-value theory of achievement motivation. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25, 68-81.
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