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Bias Against Girls Starts in Fourth Grade

Parents of girls, you aren't going to like this.

Kids running outside school Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock
As a mom of a fourth grade girl, I was more-or-less sickened to come across a study claiming that bias against girls begins this early. That's right; at the tender age of 9 or 10, our daughters are already falling victim to certain stereotypes about boys being superior to girls.

With October 11 being International Day of the Girl, Save the Children researchers looked at both boys and girls in the U.S. and in Sierra Leone and Côte d'Ivoire, and found that many kids of both genders believe fathers rule the household, and that boys are smarter than girls! In fact, nearly 40 percent of American fourth-grade boys think they are more intellectually advanced than their female peers.

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Researchers also posit that girls may be less valued than the boys their age, and this holds true in both regions of the world. For example, one in five fourth-grade girls in the U.S. and in West Africa said they needed less school than boys. Say what?

Alarming stereotypes about male and female roles in the home were also uncovered, with far too many boys and girls in the fourth grade both here and in West Africa saying dads are in charge at home, and moms are responsible for caring for the kids. Meanwhile, 17 percent of American fourth graders agreed that a man would make a better boss than a woman. Yes, I'm cringing too.

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Carolyn Miles, president & CEO of Save the Children declared in a press release, "We need to invest in [girls'] education and do everything possible to delay early marriage and motherhood. By providing children equal opportunities and access to learning, every girl can realize what she's truly worth."

Of course, bias against girls can start at home; in fact, parents of fourth graders in the U.S. were also were surveyed, revealing that 50 percent also believe the father controls the household, and more than one-fifth think men should make more money than women. It was even harder for me to read this statistic: More than a quarter of dads think it is more important for boys to get an education than girls.

I'm struggling to accept that some parents still buy into these things; especially as a mom of three girls. And because I was raised by parents who lead me to believe I could do anything as a girl. It's a message I will strive to ingrain in my own girls, especially in light of this new research.

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Melissa Willets is a writer, mom and coffee devotee. Find her on Facebook and Instagram where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of yoga.