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Abstract

Iowa students and parents completed related attitude and belief questionnaires about school subjects. Grade K–3 students received simpler questionnaires than did Grade 4–6 students or parents. Among Grade 4–6 children, girls perceived higher competence in reading than did boys, but boys perceived higher competence in physical science. All children perceived physical science competence lower than reading or math competence. Parents perceived boys as more competent in science. Girls like reading more than boys did; boys and girls did not differ in liking of science. Grade 4–6 children also expected lower grades in and attached lower importance to physical science than to reading. Parents perceived science as more important for boys and expected higher performance of boys. Jobs related to math or science were seen as more male dominated. These results provided a more comprehensive picture of attitudes and beliefs about science in the elementary school than had existed and suggested that attitudinal gender differences related to physical science begin to develop by the earliest elementary school years. Policy implications are that intervention programs designed to promote gender equity should be extended to the early elementary school years and also should address parental attitudes. Additional implications for policy and research are discussed. © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 36: 719–747, 1999