Why do most girls clap

Are girls less in love with technology?

Text: Christian Heinrich | Photo: I Like Birds

We'll ask you the big question from which everything else arises right at the beginning: Are boys really more interested in mathematics, engineering, natural sciences and technology than girls?

At least you hear about it every now and then. From parents who have the impression that their girls prefer to act out the story of Sleeping Beauty - and who then only give them “princesses” input to play with, while the sons would rather the laws of physics with two glasses of water by tossing them back and forth explore and be encouraged to build and construct. By educators who have noticed that girls tend to paint pictures for one another while chatting animatedly, while boys try to dismantle a car into its individual parts and then try to reassemble it with a few words. Clichés, or is there some truth to them?

Research is systematically approaching this topic; it has dealt with the question in hundreds of studies. Dr. Elisa Oppermann, research assistant in the early childhood education and upbringing department at Freie Universität Berlin, took a closer look at a large number of the studies together with colleagues. The result: Yes, boys are actually more interested in topics from the MINT area (mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology) - but only in advanced elementary school age, from around the second grade onwards. At day care centers, on the other hand, things are different: There is no evidence that boys and girls have different interests in technical, natural science topics.

Apparently, in the late years of kindergarten and early elementary school, the interests of girls and boys, which had been the same until then, developed in different directions. To a small extent, of course, the genetic makeup can also be involved, some of which only develop in the course of life. But the social and cultural influence is likely to be much greater: the gender role models of society, how women and men are seen and should be according to classical views.

Researchers have shown in numerous studies that these differences have real effects on children's lives in many areas. The expectations of parents seem to be shaped by their gender role model - be it consciously or unconsciously: According to a study, parents rate their sons' mathematics skills higher than that of their daughters when they perform equally well. Another study showed that parents bought more math and science-related toys for their sons than for their daughters. Most parents will not have done this on purpose to push their sons towards science and daughters towards the humanities. But subconsciously, the still prevailing gender roles seem to have an influence here. The result: Even in elementary school, girls are demonstrably less confident than boys in the fields of mathematics and natural sciences. Of course, this also influences interest, as it is particularly high where you feel comfortable and believe you can achieve success.

The important thing is: What is the individual child interested in?

What can be done about it? First of all, one should be clear: What role models are children confronted with in everyday life? Parents and educators are of course central, but advertising and toys also have an influence. It is not about consciously sabotaging or neutralizing all role models. It is important, however, to convey various options. “The children should see at an early age based on a variety of role models that their personal interests don't have to follow any stereotypes,” says Bettina Schmidt from the non-profit foundation “House of Little Researchers”, which is committed to early education in the MINT areas.

In this way, the role models are loosened up. And that can be done very easily by setting the priorities correctly. It should always be about: What is the individual child interested in? And not: What are girls and what are boys interested in?

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