Are girls really socially more competent than boys?
Ajdišek N., Pečjak S.
First author's affiliation: Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Social skills include different behaviours which help an individual to enter and interact in interpersonal relations. On the other hand, these skills are also learnt through the very same experience. Social skills are also an important factor of students' acceptance and popularity among their peers, and also a factor of their academic achievement. In our research we were interested in the way teachers assessed students' social skills. 907 students participated in the study, of which 470 were 7th grade primary school students (231 boys and 239 girls), and 437 3th grade secondary school students (176 boys and 261 girls). Merrell's School Social Behaviour Scales (1992) were used for the assessment of students' social skills and class teachers filled in the questionnaire for each participating student. The questionnaire includes six subscales, of which the first three refer to adaptive, prosocial behaviour in school situations, e.g. students' social competence (peer relations, self management/compliance, and academic behaviour). Other three subscales describe socially incompetent behaviour which is directed against others and leads to socially negative outcomes (hostile/irritable behaviour, antisocial-aggressive behaviour, and defiant/disruptive behaviour). Results of the two-way ANOVA showed teachers assessed girls as socially more competent on all subscales regardless of their school level. Academic behaviour was the only subscale on which there were significant differences between primary and secondary school students – primary school students were assessed higher than secondary school students, although again at both levels girls scored higher. The results bring up a question whether girls are really socially more skilled or perhaps our findings just reflect teachers’ perceptions, which might be biased. Further on, the results lead us to think what is it that contributes to better (perceived) social skills of girls and how to form such learning situations which will support development of social competence for all students, boys and girls.