7:00AM GMT 03 Jan 2012
Boys fall further behind at 11 and 16 and are now less likely to go on to university and gain a good degree than young women.
Researchers in the United States tested various theories to explain bad behaviour and low standards among boys and concluded that “home-based” influences played a much bigger part than biological differences, the style of early education, teacher gender or peer pressure.
“Boys’ likelihood to ‘act out’ is sharply reduced when faced with larger and better parental inputs,” said the study.
“As these parental inputs are typically higher and of better quality in intact families, this largely contributes to why boys with single mothers are so much more disruptive and eventually face school suspension.”
Researchers from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business analysed school suspension rates among boys and girls in the US. They also used surveys of parents and teachers relating to children’s cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development.
It found that at nursery level, boys were significantly more likely to misbehave than girls, adding that the gulf in discipline was considerably wider than differences in reading and maths skills.
Bad behaviour at a young age often translated into suspensions later in primary and secondary education, it was claimed, which increased pupils’ chances of dropping out of school early and missing out on university.
The study found that indiscipline reduced among boys brought up by two parents and increased sharply among those raised by single-mothers.
Researchers said a “higher levels of parental investment may prevent more of these at-risk boys from developing [behaviour] problems”, adding that this was much more likely to occur in traditional families.
The relationship between family structure and behaviour appeared to be “much weaker” for girls, it was claimed.
“It is possible that single mothers invest disproportionately less in their sons, or feel less warm toward them,” said the study. “Indeed, we show that single mothers seem relatively more emotionally distant from their sons and are also more likely to have reported spanking their sons.”