A self-fulfilling prophecy

“Stereotype threat” refers to the idea that negative stereotypes can be self-fulfilling, with individuals’ performance suffering as a result. In a new article, researchers from the University of Kent have explored the role that stereotype threat plays in boys’ academic performance, and found a correlation. The research comprised three studies.

Study 1 (children aged 4–10, n = 238) showed that girls from age 4 years and boys from age 7 years believed, and thought adults believed, that boys are academically inferior to girls. Study 2 manipulated stereotype threat, informing children aged 7–8 years (n = 162) that boys tend to do worse than girls at school. This manipulation hindered boys’ performance on a reading, writing, and maths test, but did not affect girls’ performance. Study 3 counteracted stereotype threat, informing children aged 6–9 years (n = 184) that boys and girls were expected to perform similarly. This improved the performance of boys and did not affect that of girls.

Source: A Stereotype Threat Account of Boys’ Academic Underachievement (2013), Child Development (online).

Does school entrance age matter?

Researchers in Croatia explored the relationship between the age that pupils begin school and school achievement. They found only a weak relationship in the lower grades of primary school, and at the end of primary schooling the effects are no longer evident.

The study looked at the achievement of fourth- (ages 10 and 11) and eighth-grade pupils (ages 14 and 15) in 844 primary schools in Croatia. Pupils were divided into groups of younger and older school entrants based on the difference between their year of birth and the year of school entry.

In the fourth grade, older entrants performed slightly better in all subjects than those who were younger when they entered school, but these differences in achievement were very small (effect sizes ranged from 0.02 to 0.07). By the eighth grade, there was no difference in achievement between younger and older entrants in the majority of subjects. However, contrary to the fourth grade sample, in the subjects where differences in achievement were found, the younger school entrants outperformed the older school entrants, but the effect sizes were again very small (effect sizes ranged from 0 to 0.12). In both samples, school entrance age explains less than one per cent of the variance in school achievement in different subjects.

Source: The relation between school entrance age and school achievement during primary schooling: Evidence from Croatian primary schools (2012), British Journal of Educational Psychology , 83(4)

Success for group-based parenting programmes

A new systematic review has shown that group-based parenting programmes can improve children’s behaviour problems in the short-term, as well as developing positive parenting skills and reducing parental anxiety, stress, and depression.

The review, which was produced for the Cochrane Collaboration, also concluded that these programmes were cost-effective when compared to the long-term social, educational, and legal costs associated with childhood conduct problems. The review was based on trials involving more than 1,000 participants in total.

Source: Behavioural and cognitive-behavioural group-based parenting programmes for early-onset conduct problems in children aged 3 to 12 years (2012), Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews