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Peer Reputations and Gender Differences in Academic Self-Concept

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Psychological Studies



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This study explores the extent and nature of academic peer reputation effects upon children’s academic self-concept in a sample of 151 children (average age 11 years 9 months). Peer and self-perceptions of academic ability and affect (liking) were assessed for the subject domains of English, math, and science in order to investigate the generality of peer reputation influences across academic subject areas, and to determine the extent to which gender differences might be evident. Multiple regression analyses provided some support for this stereotype-based gender-congruency hypothesis, as it was primarily children’s academic ability reputation in the gender-stereotype-congruent areas that was predictive of ability self-concept, and, influential with respect to self-perceived ability in gender-stereotypical and counter-stereotypical domains. Contrary to expectations, peer affective reputation was more predictive with respect to traditionally counter stereotypic, (gender-stereotype-incongruent) domains. Results tend to suggest the dominance of gender-stereotype consistency effects in relation to ability perceptions, but contrast effects in relation to school affect.

Self-concept can be broadly defined as a perception of one’s unique combination of attributes. Children’s academic self-concept has received a lot of attention in educational research over the last two decades. This can be traced to the predictive influence of academic self-concept on a broad range of academic outcomes such as interest, persistence, coursework selection, and academic achievement (Craven and Marsh 2008). A high level of academic self-concept is thus seen as a desirable outcome in itself and as a mediator leading to other favorable educational outcomes. Self-concept is believed to develop through a process by which we reflect on what we have done and can do, in comparison to our expectations and the expectations of others, and in comparison to the characteristics and accomplishments of others (Brigham 1986). Thus, self-concept is not innate, but is constructed by the individual through interaction with the environment and reflecting on that interaction. Although there is increasing evidence that interactions with parents (Frome and Eccles 1998) and teachers (Pintrich and Blumenfeld 1985) are key predictors of children’s self-evaluative beliefs, very little attention has been paid to whether interactions with other children, and the related factor of reputations held among peers, are related to children’s academic self-views. This dearth of research is surprising in light of evidence that the amount of time children spend interacting with peers’ rivals that spent with parents and teachers (Larson and Richards 1991). The present study is designed to address this gap in the achievement motivation literature by investigating the degree to which children’s academic self-concepts can be predicted from the academic reputations they have with their peers.



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