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Girls And Learning: Study Shows Parents Spend More Time Teaching Daughters

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THE GENDER GAP
A recent working paper by two Canadian economics professors concludes that for preschool kids in Canada, the United States and United Kingdon, it is girls who systematically received more learning time from their parents. | Shutterstock

If you're trying to keep up with the latest headlines on gender equality and parenting, it's hard to tell if Canada is really having a girl crisis, or if girls are more empowered than ever.

While girls clearly have never had more education opportunities, they still face enormous struggles, particularly when it comes to self esteem. And there are signs that girls still have a long way to go in shattering the glass ceiling in the workplace, whether or not you agree with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In" ideas about feminism.

Now a recent working paper by two Canadian economics professors concludes that for preschool kids in Canada, the United States and United Kingdom, it is girls — not boys — who receive more teaching time from their parents.

The study's authors, University of Toronto's Michael Baker and University of British Columbia's Kevin Milligan, noted that in all three countries, parents spent more time teaching their daughters across the board, including reading, telling stories, singing songs, drawing, and teaching new words and letters.

The only activity that was spread more evenly between boys and girls was teaching numbers.

In an interview with the Toronto Star, the authors say that spending equal learning time with boys and girls could reduce the Canadian kindergarten achievement gender gap by up to a third.

The conclusions were even true for fraternal girl-and-boy twins in cases where parents were determined to treat both children similarly. And it looks like the reason is simply because girls are easier to teach and "more rewarding" and they tend not to wiggle and squirm as much as boys do.

"This finding is consistent with a story in which boys are less rewarding to teach, and parents are more willing to persevere with boys once they are not responsible for their care throughout the day," say Baker and Milligan in the report.

The benefit of more time learning with parents is that it may embed certain behavior patterns that children need to do well in school, and may be a reason that boys are falling behind academically.

Their study was a follow-up to a previous report that showed boys actually received more parental time than girls because their dads spend more time with them. However, the evidence that fathers may prefer sons didn't seem to apply with children under the age or five or six.

The lesson for parents here? We all know little boys can be more of a handful than little girls, but that doesn't mean it's okay for parents to spend less time nurturing them. (That includes you too, Kate Middleton, since you say you want a baby boy.)

It is alright, however, to explore how girls and boys have different learning styles when you're trying to educate your preschooler.

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Filed by Claire Sibonney