Sex Roles, Vol. 52, Nos. 9/10, May 2005 (
Do Parents’ Academic Gender Stereotypes Inﬂuence
Whether They Intrude on their Children’s Homework?
and Jasna Jovanovic
In this study, we explored the possibility that when parents endorse particular academic gen-
der stereotypes (e.g., boys are better at math, girls are better at English) they are more likely
to engage in uninvited intrusions with homework, intrusions which then undermine children’s
conﬁdence in these domains. Participants included 38 ﬁfth to eighth grade students (mean
age = 12.16 years, 60% girls, 87% White) and their mothers and fathers. The ﬁndings indi-
cated that even though boys received more parental intrusive support with homework, girls
were more sensitive to these intrusions, speciﬁcally when they involved math. Parents’ in-
trusive support mediated the relationship between parents’ math-related gender stereotypes
and girls’ math ability perceptions, which suggests that these behaviors communicate to girls
their parents’ math stereotype beliefs.
KEY WORDS: gender stereotypes; parental intrusive support; math ability perceptions.
An important ﬁnding in the achievement liter-
ature is that children’s self-evaluations of their aca-
demic competencies are more strongly related to
their parents’ appraisals of their academic abilities
than to their actual academic performance (Entwisle
& Baker, 1983; Jacobs & Weisz, 1994; Klebanov
& Brooks-Gunn, 1992; Parsons, Adler, & Kaczala,
1982; Phillips, 1987). We know, in turn, that par-
ents’ ability appraisals are colored by their stereo-
types about boys’ and girls’ aptitudes in particular
academic domains (Andre, Whigham, Hendrickson,
& Chambers, 1999; Eccles & Jacobs, 1986; Parsons
et al., 1982; Yee & Eccles, 1988). What is less well
understood is how parents convey to their children
these stereotypic beliefs. In the present study, we
explored the possibility that when parents endorse
particular academic gender stereotypes (e.g., boys
are better at math, girls are better at English) they
are more likely to engage in uninvited intrusions
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Department
of Human and Community Development, University of Illinois
at Urbana-Champaign, 1105 W. Nevada, Urbana, Illinois 61801;
with homework, intrusions which then undermine
children’s conﬁdence in these domains.
Parents’ Ability Beliefs and
Gender Stereotyped Beliefs
There is strong evidence that parents’ gender
stereotypes about sex-typed subject domains directly
inﬂuence parents’ perceptions of their children’s abil-
ity (Jacobs, 1991; Jacobs & Eccles, 1992). For exam-
ple, when parents endorse the gender stereotype that
math and science are male domains, they are more
likely to underestimate their daughters’ abilities in
these domains and to overestimate their sons’ abil-
ities (Eccles & Jacobs, 1986; Tiedemann, 2000). In
contrast, when parents endorse the gender stereo-
type that English and social science are female do-
mains, they tend to overestimate their daughters’
abilities in these subjects and to underestimate their
sons’ abilities (Frome & Eccles, 1998). More im-
portant, parents’ gender stereotyped beliefs about
their children’s academic competencies directly in-
ﬂuence children’s ability perceptions (Bleeker &
Jacobs, 2004; Jacobs, 1991; Jacobs & Eccles, 1992).
This occurs irrespective of the child’s actual ability.
2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.