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Leah Eichler


Do you Spend More Time Teaching Your Daughter Than Your Son?

Posted: 05/24/2013 11:30 am

Daughters get a lot more parental time investment than sons in reading, storytelling, and teaching of letters and numbers. This was the finding of a study done by Michael Baker of the University of Toronto and Kevin Milligan of the University of British Columbia called "Boy-Girl Differences in Parental Time Investments: Evidence from Three Countries" released this March. The researchers found that moms and dads in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom engaged in these teaching activities more with their little girls as early as nine months old.

The study, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, also revealed that the gender difference is apparent in such activities as taking the kids to the library, giving them books, and reading to them. In these areas, parents gave more time to their daughters than their sons.

In an NPR interview with host David Greene, Baker says: "When we looked at specific activities -- what we call teaching activities; so this would be, how often do you read with your child or, how often do you teach them the alphabet or numbers -- systematically, parents spent more time doing these activities with girls."

The researchers found that "the observed differences are not due to a direct preference of parents for children of a specific sex at these ages." In fact, the researchers found that the disparities in time investment exist even when parents of fraternal twins aimed to treat them similarly.

So if it's not preference, what could possibly explain the difference in time inputs? One reason is the high cost of teaching sons. Cost here does not refer to money but to the effort involved. Baker explains: "The costs of providing these inputs are different for boys and girls. So for example, it is just more costly to provide a unit of reading to a boy than to a girl because the boy doesn't sit still -- you know, doesn't pay attention, these sorts of things."

Although still a hotly contested topic, another explanation is that girls are more inclined to cognitive activities than boys. Moreover, the "cultural scripts and unconscious biases" that parents follow which basically entails doing more active play with their sons can also explain the reason for the disparity. These, however, still need to be further studied.

The parental investment in cognitive activities may help explain why girls in elementary schools in the United States generally perform better in tests. While there is a modest difference in the preschool cognitive scores of boys and girls in the study, the researchers conclude that the "the impact may cumulate at older ages if learning deficits and advantages are cumulative." Furthermore, they acknowledge that "parental teaching may embed behaviour patterns that children need to excel at school... [and could even] precipitate patterns in children's own use of time at older ages."

By Nicel J. Avellana, Femme-O-Nomics and r/ally contributor

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  • Attention-Seeking Children Are Better Learners Later On

    Toddlers who constantly demand ""look at me!" are most likely to become better collaborators and learners when they're older, a study published in the journal <em>Child Development</em> found. <a href="http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/1112497156/attention-seeking-children-learn-better-later-on/" target="_hplink">Author Marie-Pierre Gosselin said that</a>, "Toddlers whose parents have consistently responded positively to their attention-seeking expect interactions to be fulfilling. As a result, they're eager to collaborate with their parents' attempts to socialize them."

  • It's Not Their Fault They're Selfish

    Researchers studied the behavior and brain scan images of kids while they played with others, were given rewards and prompted to share with their playmates. <a href="http://vitals.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/03/07/10602433-selfish-kids-blame-it-on-their-immature-brains" target="_hplink">The findings revealed that</a>, "even though young children understood how sharing benefited the other child, they were unable to resist the temptation to make the 'selfish' decision to keep much of the reward for themselves." But thankfully, as a child's brain matures, so will the child. "Brain scans revealed a region that matures along with children's greater ability to make less selfish decisions," the study found.

  • Snorers Might Later Become Hyperactive

    Children who snore or have sleep apnoea are more likely to be hyperactive by the age of 7. <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17237576" target="_hplink">Researcher, Dr. Karen Bonuck said</a> a toddler's "sleep problems could be harming the developing brain."

  • They Hear Their Own Words Differently

    <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2011/12/23/toddlers-hear-their-own-words-differently-says-study/" target="_hplink">According to Ewen MacDonald</a> of the Technical University of Denmark, adults monitor their voices so that the sound reflects what is intended. But, "2-year-olds do not monitor their auditory feedback like adults do, suggesting they are using a different strategy to control speech production," he said.

  • Missed Naps Could Lead To Mood Disorders

    <a href="http://news.yahoo.com/missed-naps-could-put-toddlers-risk-mood-disorders-140406546.html" target="_hplink">Researchers found that depriving toddlers of a daily nap</a> led to "more anxiety, lower levels of joy and interest, and reduced problem-solving abilities." Kids in the focus group who missed naps were not able to "take full advantage of exciting and interesting experiences and to adapt to new frustrations."

  • They Succumb To Peer Pressure

    Two-year-olds in a focus group "were more likely to copy an action when they saw it repeated by three other toddlers than if they saw an action repeated by just one other toddler," a study published in the journal Current Biology found.

  • Their Memories Are Better Than You Think

    <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/life/family/2012/04/children_s_memories_toddlers_remember_better_than_you_think_.html" target="_hplink">In a recent Slate article</a>, Nicholas Day illustrated a timeline of what scientists have learned about toddlers' memories over the last few decades. Before the 80s, it was believed that babies and young toddlers lived in the present with no memory of the past. Twenty years ago, however, a study found that 3-year-olds could recount memories of Disney World 18 months after they visited. And recently, <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2011.01699.x/abstract" target="_hplink">research noted</a> a "27-month-old child who'd seen a 'magic shrinking machine' remembered the experience some six years later."


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