An Atlantic piece today outlines some current research that is very much in line with my own.
The researchers found a gender difference in what they call “teaching activities” that build cognitive skills in children as young as nine months old. Girls, not boys, in all three countries received more time from parents on three activities: reading, storytelling, and teaching letters and numbers. Baker and Milligan scrutinized data for first-born children, to control for differences arising when parents slack off after baby number two or three arrives. They also examined parents’ time spent with boy-girl twins and again found boys receiving less time than girls on the three teaching activities.
I’ve found a small, but statistically significant difference in the amount of time parents spend reading to girls at ages one, three, and five as part of a paper focused on relationship quality and investments in children.
They’ve got a very economist-y explanation for the behavior: “It is just more costly to provide a unit of reading to a boy than to a girl because the boy doesn’t sit still, you know, doesn’t pay attention,” Michael Baker told NPR (on his research with Kevin Milligan).
Costs are not just about money, people.