Girls at single-sex schools are more competitive

I’m slow in posting about this, but my colleague Alison Booth is doing some very interesting research on single-sex schooling. From a recent writeup in the Age:

Going to a single-sex school makes teenage girls more competitive than if they attend a co-educational school, a study of adolescent behaviour has found.

The findings reveal big differences in the competitive choices of girls from single-sex and co-ed schools and suggest a girl’s environment is more important than her genetic identity in affecting whether she chooses to compete with others.

The study of gender differences and competitive behaviour found students from girls’ schools behave more like boys when asked to enter a competition that involved a small financial reward. On average, they were just as likely as boys from single-sex or co-ed schools to behave competitively in the experiment designed by university researchers.

By contrast, girls from co-ed schools were much less likely to enter the competition when compared with boys and with their counterparts from all-girls schools. The differences in behaviour were stark, regardless of a student’s family background.

And for any education department official who wants to know more:

Professor Booth says the students’ attitudes were likely to be similar to those of Australian teenagers. She hopes to run the same experiments with Australian schools to test her theory.

What would be particularly neat is to test the same children multiple times, to see whether moving from a co-ed to a single-sex environment affects behaviour.

(xposted @

3 thoughts on “Girls at single-sex schools are more competitive”

  1. Yes, I would say this is certainly true.  I attended an al girls school and it bred in an aggressive competitive streak that got so bad I almost lost all my friends.  Of course, most people don’t take it to that extreme but without the calming hand of a boy it can get quite Lord of the Flies in single sex girls schools.


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