Traditional Masculinity, Help Avoidance, and Intrinsic Interest in Relation to High School Students’ English and Math Performance

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The study tested if endorsement of traditional masculinity was related to gender-related variations in motivation and achievement in English (reading and writing) and math among American high school students. The sample comprised 291 U.S. students from Grades 9 to 12 (55% girls; M = 16 years; 46% White, 23% Asian/Pacific Islander, and 12% Latinx), who completed surveys in their school classrooms measuring intrinsic interest, help avoidance, and grades in English and math, as well as endorsement of traditional masculinity norms (social teasing and emotional restriction). On average, traditional masculinity was endorsed more by boys than girls (d = 0.96). However, a structural equation model confirmed that traditional masculinity was negatively related to English intrinsic interest and positively related to English help avoidance in boys and girls; intrinsic interest and help avoidance predicted boys’ and girls’ English grades. A second model tested traditional masculinity in relation to math motivation and achievement. Traditional masculinity was unrelated to boys’ math grades. However, it was indirectly related to girls’ math grades via its positive pathways to both intrinsic interest and to help avoidance. The results suggest that rigid endorsement of traditional masculinity norms may undermine some boys’ and girls’ academic success in a traditionally feminine-stereotyped subject such as English. Conversely, endorsement of traditional masculinity may be related to girls’ achievement in a traditionally masculine-stereotyped subject such as math. Research is recommended to explore if and how measures of traditional masculinity ideology have similar meanings for girls and boys.

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