The interplay of gender and social background: A longitudinal study of interaction effects in reading attitudes and behaviour

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Researchers often report and discuss gender differences. However, recent research has drawn attention to interaction effects between gender and other social categories.


This study analysed the development of disparities in students' reading-related self-concept, intrinsic motivation, and behaviour, as they relate to differences in gender and socio-economic family background. Drawing on expectancy-value theory, we regarded reading-related self-concept, motivation, and behaviour as key to explaining the growing differences between boys and girls in adolescence. Specifically, we focused on the interaction between gender and socio-economic background in children, which has been discussed in the context of moderating gender differences but not in the context of reading-related attitudes and behaviour.


The investigation is based on a longitudinal sample of N = 717 German students between third and sixth grades.


We used questionnaire data from both students and parents. To compare students' development across time, we applied multigroup latent growth curve models.


We found evidence of increasing gender differences, which were also moderated by the socio-economic status (SES) of parents: a gender gap either already existed (intrinsic motivation and reading behaviour) or intensified (reading self-concept and reading behaviour) between third and sixth grades. The interaction of gender and SES seemed particularly important for reading self-concept, with the gender gap growing less substantially for higher-SES children. Moreover, this pattern persisted for reading self-concept, even when controlling for achievement differences.


The results provide evidence that gender, social background, and the interaction of the two are relevant for development in the domain of reading, even in young children.

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