The impact of gender on social skills in young people

Science Daily | April 2018| Girls more likely than boys to struggle with social, behavioral, academic needs

A US study which looked at gender differences between pupils in eighth and ninth grade (equivalent to Year 8 and 9 in England).  This research challenges the gender stereotype that boys are more likely to be the problem children in school, as the study found that girls constitute the majority of youths who struggled the most academically, socially and behaviourally.  They found that females who do not value social skills have poorer attainment and attendance than their male peers with the same attitude. Girls who regard social skills as being important have better attainment, attendance and fewer disciplinary issues than their male peers (via Science Daily).

The researchers studied 320 pupils to investigate their social-emotional  learning needs with eighth- and ninth-graders’ academic performance and behaviour

The investigators found 5 patterns among the young people, these include:

  • no significant social-emotional learning needs (44 per cent)
  • youths needing help to assert themselves  and with school/peer engagement and internalization issues (25 per cent)
  • social skills needs (nearly 17 per cent);
  •  difficulties with self-control and other behavioral problems (more than 6 per cent);
  • significant needs across the four domains (about 7 per cent)

One of the researchers, Professor Kevin Tan, said that  although social-emotional learning programs are being used in US schools, these programs often used a  ‘cookie-cutter approach’.  Instead, Professor Tan called for interventions to be tailored to the gender and individual needs of the student, which might make them more effective.

The full news item is available from Science Daily 

A paper based on the study has been published in the journal Psychology in the Schools


Boys struggle academically and behaviorally more than girls and are more likely to have difficulty with social skills. It seems likely that boys and girls do not perceive social skills in the same light. Past research has not investigated this or its relationship to academic and behavioral performance. Using data from a cohort of 9th‐grade students (n = 323) in one high school in central Illinois, this study involves interaction analyses of student mindsets about their social skills and gender. Findings indicated that females who perceive social skills as more important had higher grade point averages (GPAs), higher attendance rates, and fewer disciplinary problems than their male counterparts. Conversely, females who perceive social skills as of lesser importance have lower GPAs, poorer attendance, and more disciplinary referrals than their male counterparts. Findings highlight pertinent gender differences in the relation between social skills mindsets and outcomes among high‐school freshmen students.

Full reference:

Tan, K. Oe J.S., Hoang,  L.  | 2018| How does gender relate to social skills? Exploring differences in social skills mindsets, academics, and behaviors among high‐school freshmen students |Psychology in the Schools | 55 | P. 429–442 |

The full article may be requested by Rotherham NHS staff here 


Playfulness in boys viewed negatively by teachers in study

Science Daily  | April 2018  | Class clowns: Playful boys viewed more negatively than playful girls, study finds

New research from America has found that playful boys are viewed more negatively by their teachers than girls with similar tendencies towards playfulness. According to the lead researcher,  educators perceived young boys (in grades 1, 2 and 3) as  ‘class clowns’ and viewed their behavior as  problematic (via Science Daily).


The study tracked 278 kindergarten-aged children over 3 school years to investigate children’s, classmates’ and teachers’ views on playfulness. At the end of each academic year, the children rated their perception of their level of playfulness,  and self-perception of disruptive behavior and social competence.

The results show a gender difference in teachers’ attitudes towards the playful males, seeing them  as rebellious, intrusive and having poor social skills, and being labeled as “class clowns” by their teachers. This was in contrast to children’s own perception of their behaviour, and how they were regarded by their peers,  who initially viewed playful boys as appealing and desired playmates. Similarly, children in the study did not appear to view playful boys and girls differently, viewing them all as more attractive playmates to their less playful peers. Although this tendency dwindled as classmates perceptions of these boys  from  positive to increasingly negative. The lead author attributes this to playful boys being viewed as “boys who should be avoided or spurned.”

The full story is at Science Daily 

The research article can be read at Frontiers in Psychology 




Social media use at age 10 could reduce wellbeing of adolescent girls

Social media use may have different effects on wellbeing in adolescent boys and girls, according to research | BMC Public Health | Story via ScienceDaily


Researchers at the University of Essex and UCL found an association between increased time spent on social media in early adolescence (age 10) and reduced wellbeing in later adolescence (age 10-15) — but only among girls.

The study used data from the youth panel of the UK Household Panel Study — a large national survey which interviews all members of a household annually, from 2009 — 2015. A total of 9,859 UK adolescents aged 10 to 15 years completed questions on how many hours they spent interacting on social media sites on a typical school day.

The authors found that adolescent girls used social media more than boys and social media interaction increased with age for both boys and girls. At age 13, about a half of girls were interacting on social media for more than 1 hour per day, compared to just one third of boys. By age 15, both genders increased their social media use but girls continued to use social media more than boys, with 59% of girls and 46% of boys interacting on social media for one or more hours per day.

Wellbeing appeared to decline throughout adolescence in both boys and girls, as reflected in scores for happiness and other aspects of wellbeing, although findings indicated that girls experienced more negative aspects of wellbeing.

Full story at ScienceDaily

Full reference: Cara L. Booker, Yvonne J. Kelly, Amanda Sacker | Gender differences in the associations between age trends of social media interaction and well-being among 10-15 year olds in the UK | BMC Public Health | 2018

The Mental health of young women and girls

The Mental health of young women and girls: how to prevent a growing crisis | Mental Health Foundation

This policy paper from the Mental Health Foundation reports that the mental health of young women and girls is deteriorating, with the gap between men and women widening  over recent years.  The evidence section in this paper shows that the last 15 years have seen an unprecedented rise in reported mental health problems amongst young women and girls, with their needs reaching crisis levels.

mental health
Image source:

The paper makes a series of recommendations including:

  • identify pressure points and social determinants of mental health and wellbeing in young women and girls, to support the development of tailored mental health guidance aimed at preventing mental health problems for those at highest risk
  • improve the understanding of how to prevent mental health problems in young women by decision makers.

Full document: While your back was turned: How mental health policymakers stopped paying attention to the specific needs of women and girls

Mental ill-health of children and young people

New research shows a quarter of girls (24%) and one in 10 boys (9%) are depressed at age 14. | National Childrens Bureau

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Researchers from the UCL Institute of Education and the University of Liverpool have analysed information on more than 10,000 children born in 2000-01 who are taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study. This briefing provides details of the mental health among this cohort.

The findings show that while the majority of 3-14-year-olds in the UK are not suffering from mental ill-health, a substantial proportion experience significant difficulties. Being from a poorer background or being of mixed or white ethnic background appeared to raise the risk.

Full briefing: Mental ill-health among children of the new century

See also: National Childrens Bureau|  NHS England | BBC News

Young people’s views on gender, emotional well-being and mental health

This report presents young people’s views on how they cope with difficulties and seek help, with a focus on the role of gender | National Children’s Bureau

just getting on
Image source: NCB

Our surveys and face-to-face engagement with more than 100 young people generated some key findings:

  •  Some healthy ways of managing stress are widely acceptable to both male and female young people we surveyed: for example, having fun and exercising.
  •  Young people are very aware of expectations on boys and men to appear strong and not show emotion.
  •  Sharing problems with others seems more widely acceptable among the young women than young men, although not as clearly as common stereotypes might suggest.
  • Some girls and young women described feeling that their difficulties are belittled by adults when they try to seek support. They perceived assumptions that girls’ distress is due to overemotional reactions to minor issues with friendships and relationships. Some girls and young women expressed uncertainty about trusting female friends, although other females were an important source of support.
  • The few trans young people we heard from did feel that gender stereotypes affected how they cope and sought help, to different degrees and in different ways. Two commented on the need for greater professional understanding of gender identity.
  • The areas in which the young people most wanted to see greater gender-sensitivity were information about support available; support within settings like schools, youth clubs and youth offending institutions; and how professionals relate to young people

Read the full report here

Social media abuse affects almost half of girls in UK

Nearly half (48%) of girls aged 11-18 in the UK and two-fifths of boys have experienced some form of harassment or abuse on social media | OnMedica

Image source: Plan

The findings, based on a survey commissioned by girls’ rights charity Plan International UK, have prompted fears that young people, and girls in particular, are being forced to withdraw from social media due to fear of criticism, harassment or abuse. The charity today launches the #girlsbelonghere campaign to tackle the problem.

The survey revealed boys are significantly less likely than girls to experience abuse, with 40% reporting a negative experience. They are also less likely (59%) to take evasive actions to avoid being criticised such as refraining from posting on social media or holding back their opinions.

For the survey, research agency Opinium contacted 1,002 young people aged 11-18. Some 235 of the 486 girls and 202 of the 510 boys who responded reported online abuse.