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All-Girls Schools Promote Gender Norms, Study Reports

Update Date: Dec 19, 2013 12:24 PM EST
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In a new study, researchers examined the effects of going to an all-girls school. The researchers were curious to find out whether or not girls from all-girls establishments come out as feminists or as 'mean girls.' The researchers were surprised to find that girls attending these gender-specific schools were more likely to adhere to gender norms. If girls strayed from these norms, they were more likely to get bullied and pressured.

"It's called the social-dosage hypothesis," William M. Bukowski, researcher and director for the Center of Research in Human Development at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, said reported by TIME. "When girls are together without the presence of boys, they're going to get an extra-strong dose of what it is to be female. I was quite surprised by the results. But do I think that these results would generalize to schools in North America? I do."

The researchers were surprised to find that girls from all-girls schools measured their own self-worth through their social confidence as opposed to their cognitive confidence. Girls from mixed-schools were more likely to care more about academics than social confidence when assessing self-worth.

Despite this study's findings, some critics believe that all-girl schools help empower girls. In a 2005 report, titled Single-Sex Versus Coeducational Schooling: A Systematic Review, published by the U.S. Department of Education, researchers stated that many studies have found that girls who went to same-sex schools had higher levels of academic aspirations. These girls took more challenging course than girls form mixed-gender schools.

"All-girls schools tend to give girls better access to physical materials where there's building going on and support girls in nontraditional fields," commented Lisa Damour, director of the Center for Research on Girls at Laurel School in Ohio.

Other critics believe that if Bukowski's study was conducted in the United States as opposed to Columbia, the results would have been different due to cultural differences. Bukowski and the research team chose to conduct their study in Columbia because socioeconomic development plays a smaller role. Girls in Columbia generally attend all-girls schools due to convenience whereas in the Untied States or other more advanced nations, girls are placed in all-girls schools for academics.

"In cultures where gender and gender expectations are very stratified, expectations are also stratified and rigid," Rosalind Wiseman commented. Wiseman is the author of Queen Bees and Wannabes. "All-girls schools in the United States have done a lot to combat these expectations and stereotypes. They've undergone a tremendous transformation in the last 20 years in order to stay relevant and survive. They stopped being finishing schools and became this place of opportunity for female empowerment."

The study's findings suggest that culture can play a huge factor in how girls view themselves and others within the setting of an all-girls school.

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