Do handwriting fluency and self-efficacy beliefs explain the gender gap in writing?

Do handwriting fluency and self-efficacy beliefs explain the gender gap in writing?

First Author: Carolina Cordeiro -- University of Porto
Additional authors/chairs: 
São Luís Castro; Teresa Limpo
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: There is evidence suggesting that girls surpass boys in writing. Still, our understanding about this difference is reduced. In this study, we aimed to examine the gender gap in writing in Grades 4-6 and Grades 7-9. We examined gender differences in written composition (viz., spelling, text length, and text quality) and tested whether these differences remained, after accounting for students’ handwriting fluency skills and self-efficacy beliefs.

Method: Three-hundred and seventy-six students from Grades 4 to 9 performed two handwriting fluency tasks, reported their self-efficacy beliefs for writing, and wrote a story and an opinion essay. Both texts were assessed regarding spelling, text length, and holistic quality ratings. Performance across the two texts was averaged for each variable. We then conducted two hierarchical regressions analyses for Grades 4-6 (N = 171; Mage = 11.1 years; SD = 1.0; 92 girls) and Grades 7-9 (N = 205; Mage = 14.0 years; SD = 0.9; 97 girls). We entered age on Step 1, gender on Step 2, and handwriting fluency and self-efficacy on Step 3.

Results: In both grade groups, girls displayed higher writing performance than boys and this effect decreased, but did not disappear, after accounting for students’ handwriting fluency and self-efficacy beliefs.

Conclusions: As expected, handwriting and self-efficacy explained the gender gap in written composition to some extent. However, the relationship between gender and writing was not totally mediated by these variables. Other sources of the female’s superiority in writing need to be considered in future studies.