Sex differences and science: the etiology of science excellence

Claire M A Haworth, Philip S Dale, Robert Plomin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Are there sex differences in the etiology of high performance in science in childhood that could contribute to the under-representation of women in scientific careers? In this study the relative contributions of genetic and environmental influences on high performance in science in both boys and girls were assessed using standard twin analyses.

METHODS: The sample included 3000 twin pairs from the UK Twins Early Development Study (TEDS). Science performance ratings based on the UK National Curriculum were collected from teachers when the twins were 9, 10 and 12 years old. Science excellence was defined as performing above the 85th percentile. Sex-limitation liability threshold models were used to assess sex differences in etiology.

RESULTS: We found no evidence for quantitative or qualitative sex differences in the etiology of science excellence, which was moderately heritable (30-50%), and influenced by both shared (40-56%) and non-shared (10-13%) environmental influences.

CONCLUSIONS: Although boys and girls do not differ genetically in relation to school science performance per se, the under-representation of women in scientific careers may be due to attitudes rather than aptitudes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1113-20
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Volume50
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2009

Keywords

  • Child
  • Educational Status
  • Faculty
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Science
  • Sex Factors
  • Twins
  • Twins, Dizygotic
  • Twins, Monozygotic

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