Consciously or not, people learn a lot from their surroundings. Peers and family members can have a huge impact on a child’s overall attitude. A recent article in TIME Ideas,“Do Mothers Hamper Their Daughters in Math,” discusses how children adopt—from their parents and even teachers—subject matter anxiety.
Previous studies have looked at how parents’ stereotypes (“boys are better at math, and girls are better at reading”) and expectations (for example, holding sons’ academic performance to a higher standard than daughters’) affect their children’s orientation toward learning. Elizabeth Gunderson, a researcher at the University of Chicago, takes a different tack, suggesting that parents may influence their offspring’s attitudes in two more subtle ways: 1) through their own anxiety, and 2) through their own belief that abilities are fixed and can’t be improved (expressed in commonly-heard comments like “I’ve never been good at science,” and “I can’t do math to save my life”).
Research shows that school-aged children are especially apt to emulate the attitudes and behaviors of the same-sex parent—a source of concern if we want to improve girls’ still-lagging performance in traditionally male-dominated fields like science and mathematics. If mom hates math, a young girl may reason, it’s O.K. for me to dislike it too, hence parent really can influence subject matter anxiety.Written by: Editorial Team, My Learning Springboard, Inc.