Moderating effects of personality on the genetic and environmental influences of school grades helps to explain sex differences in scholastic achievement

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Abstract

Girls consistently achieve higher grades than boys despite scoring lower on major standardized tests and not having higher IQs. Sex differences in non-cognitive variables such as personality might help to account for sex differences in grades. Utilizing a large sample of 17-year-old twins participating in the Minnesota Twin Family Study (MTFS), we examined the roles of Achievement Striving, Self-Control and Aggression on sex differences in grade point average (GPA). Each personality trait was a significant predictor of GPA, with sex differences in Aggression accounting for one-half the sex difference in GPA and genetic variance accounting for most of the overlap between personality and GPA. Achievement Striving and Self-Control moderated the genetic and environmental influences on GPA. Specifically, for girls but not boys, higher Achievement Striving and Self-Control were associated with less variability in GPA and greater genetic and environmental overlap with GPA. For girls, certain personality traits operate to shape a context yielding uniformly higher GPA, a process that seems absent in boys. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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