The Role of Family Background and Gender Stereotypes in Determining Boys' and Girls' Mathematics Achievement

Friday, July 18, 2014: 11:30 AM
Room: F201
Oral Presentation
Branislava BARANOVIC , Centre for Educational Research and Development, Institute for Social Research, Zagreb, Croatia
Jelena MATIC , Centre for Educational Research and Development, Institute for Social Research, Zagreb, Croatia
The presentation reports the results of the 2010 empirical research examining the role of family background and stereotypes about mathematics as male domain in boys’ and girls’ mathematics achievement in Croatian compulsory education (N=677, 52.4% female). Individual roles in determining mathematics achievement of both of these variables were widely confirmed (Bourdieu, 1996; Sirin, 2005; Eccles, 1987). This presentation focuses on exploring their possible interaction effects on boys' and girls' math achievement.

Family background was operationalized as a composite of indicators of socioeconomic (parental work status) and sociocultural capital (parental education, possession of relevant goods), modelled after Bourdieu (1977). The scale assessing stereotypes was constructed for the study purpose and validated in pilot study. Mathematics achievement was operationalized as a composite of mathematics school grades.

Two-way ANOVAs revealed some gender specificities in the effects of the IVs on DV. Results obtained for girls indicated both main effects and interaction significant. Girls who belonged to higher status families and those who reported lower support for stereotypes achieved better in mathematics. Significant interaction effect disclosed that being from lower status families and supporting stereotypes was connected with girls’ worst mathematics achievement. Conversely, being from the higher family background was associated with higher math achievement, regardless of the level of stereotypes endorsement. Thus, originating from higher status families functioned as a barrier for the stereotype effect. As for the boys’ math achievement, only family background appeared to be relevant. As expected, boys from advantaged family backgrounds attained better math grades. Although below the significance level, the data trend shows that boys’ poor success in mathematics coexisted with the combination of lower family status and stereotypes rejection, while good math grades related to higher family status and stereotypes endorsement. This analysis uncovers girls from non-advantaged families as most-in-need group for stereotype reduction programs.