Monday, January 27, 2014

Gifted sons, gifted daughters, and Google searches

A little over a week ago, the New York Times printed Seth Stephen-Davidowitz's analysis of Google search data. One result? Parents are 2.5 times more likely to search for the phrase "Is my son gifted?" than "Is my daughter gifted?" Parents are also more likely to search for "Is my son behind?" or some other phrase implying that a child is having academic problems than searching for similar phrases about their daughters, but the difference is less pronounced, he notes.

So what are we to make of this? Stephen-Davidowitz notes that girls tend to have more developed vocabularies at a younger age. He also notes that in schools, girls are more likely to be in gifted programs than boys.

It may be that parents are, at least in the privacy of their internet searches, more concerned with their sons' intelligence than their daughters'. Parents turn out to be more likely to search phrases like "Is my daughter overweight?" vs. "Is my son overweight?" -- implying that people are more concerned about girls' looks than their brains.

That would be unfortunate -- though probably not terribly surprising. Of course, as some parents have mentioned here, sometimes gifted girls very much want to fit in, and so will hide their intelligence or do their best to act like all is well in school. If boys are more likely to act out when frustrated and bored, this might create a crisis situation that then triggers an internet search for answers.

I'm curious what Gifted Exchange readers think of this article. In your experience, have you seen parents be more likely to advocate for gifted sons vs. gifted daughters?


Marcy Adams Sznewajs said...

I think that your hypotheses may be at least partially correct, sadly. I think another possibility is that often gifted girls, more astute socially at a young age, assimilate and do their best to "fit in," while young boys are more apt to act out, thus prompting parents to consider giftedness, or other reasons for difficulties in school.

The Mom Advocate said...

It goes both ways, and these stereotypes affect the teachers and administrators as well.

My personal experience is that I've had to advocate for appropriate educational placement more for my daughter than my son. The general impression I've gotten is that my daughter is expected to fit in (or at least fit into the gifted stereotype), whereas it's more ok if my son needs more despite being quirky and young for grade.

Rita Voit said...

When I first started HEROES in 2007, our students were almost exclusively boys interested in math and science. At this month's HEROES Conference for gifted students in NJ 2/3 of the students attending were boys.

Anonymous said...

Sexism exists to this very day, sadly, and not just in parents being more worried about their daughter's looks and their son's smarts.

It even affects which skills are considered to reflect 'real' intelligence. So memorizing the Periodic table of elements is seen to be evidence of unusual intelligence. Memorizing the detailed and nuanced social interactions of 118 middle schoolers isn't seen as an indicator of intelligence. There are probably better examples. This same argument is also true of social class. The gifted boys I see from working class families are more likely to be introduced as being about to identify every make and model of automobile at age 5 than for naming 40 kinds of dinosaurs.

For every parent of a gifted kid I know, I hear 'he gets it from is dad' 25 times for every time I hear 'he gets it from his mom.' This seems unlikely to reflect reality.

nicoleandmaggie said...

Patriarchy sucks.

Hell, I just had a conversation with a prominent economist who was, on the one hand, condemning women who brag too much while praising men who thought highly of themselves on the other. The examples he was using were not good if you compared cvs line by line. (The women in question being much more deserving of self-confidence.)

We're not even allowed to show our intelligence as adults with PhDs in male-dominated fields at top institutions without push-back.

Gail Post, Ph.D. said...

It is so unfortunate that these gender stereotypes continue. I think that parents want what they think is best, and worry from when their children are quite young about whether they will succeed. And appearance still means so much for women in our culture.

I wrote a blog about this same article recently,

Gail Post

Anonymous said...

We only have sons, so I write from that perspective. We had so many problems (from a behavioral standpoint) with our son during his first grade year that we were searching trying to figure out if we had a gifted child or some sort of major behavior disorder on our hands. In our case, it was the clash between what we knew of his capabilities and the reaction the school had to him that had us second guessing ourselves. In hindsight, at least part of the school's reaction stems from their other issues in dealing with all active children (primarily boys). My reaction to the original article is that parents of gifted boys may be receiving more negative messages due to behavior than the parents of girls, but that's just a guess.

I can't comment on why people would search for information about attractiveness. Can't imagine that mindset...

Anonymous said...

I am a gifted female parent and as soon as I realized that I had given birth to a gifted son, I felt that wow! gender had nothing to do with it; it must have to do with our ancestral heritage and the survival of our ancestors from an anthropological standpoint. We were probably, for example, more likely to have a strong intuition as to which route to take (figuratively or literally) and we cared more and were more anxious and were the people warning everyone else of what we noticed, always trying to be helpful, way too alert. Also, we have a strong, independent streak which totally explains how we ended up in the USA (cannot imagine acting as if some people are royal by birthright, what?!). Plus, we are so quick when we want to be which definitely comes in handy. If you examine the traits of people, you can trace their characteristics to their societal roles. Lastly, that never-ending curiosity that makes time fly by, always asking how and why. I am grateful for all diversity in Life and Nature needs it to survive. No one is more important than another. We are stronger as a whole. Our family noticed a prejudice against boys who show their giftedness more verbally, because it seems more rare; I always pay attention to biographies and auto-biographies of successful men and quite often they admit to being verbally strong and voracious readers. The most important thing a parent can do is be honest. The gifted kids are really advanced cognitively and are NOT doing well in school to please others. The 'very good students' who are plugged into pleasing everyone else (teachers, admin., parents) are not usually the free-thinkers and that is why school can be a hard challenge for a gifted person.