Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Access
  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: June 2012

13 - Gender Effects on Mathematics Achievement: Mediating Role of State and Trait Self-Regulation

    • Send chapter to Kindle

      To send this chapter to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Available formats

      Send chapter to Dropbox

      To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Available formats

      Send chapter to Google Drive

      To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Available formats


Gender differences in achievement have been the focus of many studies across different domains (e.g., Halpern, 2000; Willingham & Cole, 1997). Mathematics especially has received much attention due to its fundamental importance in modern society, its observed performance gap in favor of males on many academic tasks, and its minority of female experts in related fields (Halpern, 2000). Other chapters in this book provide a discussion of possible reasons for these gender differences in mathematics (e.g., critical thinking, biopsychosocial reasons, spatial ability, talent, personality). The focus of this chapter is on the role of self-regulation.

In a general sense, self-regulation is any effort to alter or sustain one's own pattern of behavior (Baumeister, Heatherton, & Tice, 1994). Within the academic context, however, self-regulated learning has been characterized by motivational, cognitive, and metacognitive strategies that specifically facilitate academic achievement (Bandura, 1993; McCombs, 1984). We explore mediating roles of students' trait and state self-regulation in academic tasks and of students' test anxiety to further our understanding of the gender gap in students' mathematics achievement.

Traits are considered relatively enduring predispositions or characteristics of people (e.g., intelligence, aptitude, or self-regulation), whereas states are attributes of individuals that are relatively changeable, thus representing dimensions of intraindividual variability over time or occasions (Spielberger, 1975). The distinction is important because individuals' traits are highly predictive of their state characteristics, although manifestations of state characteristics are highly dependent on the environment and circumstances of the specific instance.

Ablard, K. E., & Lipschultz, R. E. (1998). Self-regulated learning in high-achieving students: Relations to advanced reasoning, achievement goals, and gender. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90, 94–101
Bander, R. S., & Betz, N. E. (1981). The relationship of sex and sex role to trait and situationally specific anxiety types. Journal of Research in Personality, 15, 312–322
Bandura, A. (1993). Perceived self-efficacy in cognitive development and functioning. Educational Psychologist, 28, 117–148
Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman
Bandura, A., & Schunk, D. H. (1981). Cultivating competence, self-efficacy, and intrinsic interest through proximal self-motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 41, 586–598
Baumeister, R. F., Heatherton, T. F., & Tice, D. M. (1994). Losing control: How and why people fail at self-regulation. San Diego, CA: Academic Press
Benson, J., Bandalos, D., & Hutchinson, S. (1994). Modeling test and anxiety among men and women. Anxiety, Stress & Coping: An International Journal, 7, 131–148
Benson, J., & Tippets, E. (1990). Confirmatory factor analysis of the test anxiety inventory. In C. Spielberger & R. Dias-Guererro (Eds.), Cross cultural anxiety (Vol. 4, pp. 149–156). New York: Hemisphere/Taylor-Francis
Bentler, P. M. (1990). Comparative fit indices in structural models. Psychological Bulletin, 107, 238–246
Bentler, P. M. (1992). On the fit of models to covariances and methodology. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 400–404
Bentler, P. M. (2002). EQS 6.0 for Windows. Encino, CA: Multivariate Software, Inc
Blascovich, J., Spencer, S. J., Quinn, D., & Steele, C. (2001). African Americans and high blood pressure: The role of stereotype threat. Psychological Science, 12, 225–229
Borkowski, J. G., & Burke, J. (1996). Trends in the development of theories, models, and measurement of executive functioning: Views from an information processing perspectives. In G. R. Lyon & N. A. Krasnegor (Eds.), Attention, memory, and executive functioning (pp. 235–262). Baltimore, MD: P. H. Brookes
Borkowski, J. G., & Muthukrishna, N. (1992). Moving metacognition into the classroom: “Working models” and effective strategy teaching. In M. Pressley, K. R. Harris, & J. T. Guthrie (Eds.), Promoting academic competence and literacy in school (pp. 477–501). San Diego, CA: Academic Press
Brown, A. L., Bransford, J. D., Ferrara, R. A., & Campione, J. C. (1983). Learning, remembering, and understanding. In P. H. Mussen (Series Ed.) & J. H. Flavell & E. M. Markman (Vol. Eds.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 3. Cognitive development (4th ed., pp. 77–166). New York: Wiley
Brown, M. W., & Cudeck, R. (1993). Alternative ways of assessing model fit. In K. A. Bollen & J. S. Long (Eds.), Testing structural equation models (pp. 111–135). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage
Cahan, S., & Ganor, Y. (1995). Cognitive gender differences among Israeli children. Sex Roles, 32, 469–484
Caporrimo, R. (1990, August). Gender, confidence, math: Why aren't the girls “where the boys are?” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, Boston
Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (1981). Attention and self-regulation: A control theory approach to human behavior. New York: Springer-Verlag
Cooper, S. E., & Robinson, D. A. (1989). The influence of gender and anxiety on mathematics performance. Journal of College Student Development, 30, 459–461
Das, J. P., Naglieri, J. A., & Kirby, J. R. (1994). Assessment of cognitive processes. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon
Deboer, G. E. (1984). A study of gender effects in the science and mathematics course-taking behavior of a group of students who graduated from college in the late 1970s. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 21, 95–103
Everson, H. T., Smodlaka, I., & Tobias, S. (1994). Exploring the relationship of test anxiety and metacognition on reading test performance: A cognitive analysis. Anxiety, Stress, and Coping, 7, 85–96
Fennema, E. (1974). Mathematics learning and the sexes: A review. Journal of Research in Mathematics Education, 5, 126–139
Fennema, E. (1984). Girls, women, and mathematics. In E. Fennema & M. J. Ayre (Eds.), Women and education: Equity or equality (pp. 137–164). Berkeley, CA; McCutchan
Flanagan, J. C., Davis, F. B., Dailey, J. T., Shaycroft, M. F., Orr, D. B., Goldberg, I., & Neyman, C. A., Jr. (1964). Project TALENT: One-year follow-up studies (Final report for Cooperative Research Project No. 635, U.S. Office of Education). Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh
Flavell, J. H. (1976). Metacognitive aspects of problem solving. In L. Resnick (Ed.), The nature of intelligence. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum
Flavell, J. H. (1979). Metacognition and cognitive monitoring: A new area of cognitive-developmental inquiry. American Psychologist, 34, 906–911
Garner, M., & Engelhard, G. Jr. (1999). Gender differences in performance on multiple-choice and constructed response mathematics items. Applied Measurement in Education, 12, 29–51
Gerbing, D. W., & Anderson, J. (1993). Monte Carlo evaluations of goodness-of-fit indices for structural equation models. In K. A. Bollen & J. S. Long (Eds.), Testing structural equation models (pp. 40–65). Newbury Park: Sage
Hackett, G. (1985). The role of mathematics self-efficacy in the choice of math-related majors of college women and men: A path analysis. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 32, 47–56
Hackett, G., & Betz, N. E. (1989). An exploration of the mathematics self-efficacy/mathematics performance correspondence. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 20, 261–273
Halpern, D. F. (2000). Sex differences in cognitive abilities (3rd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum
Halpern, D. F. (2002). The development of adult cognition: Understanding constancy and change in adult learning (Report prepared for the U.S. Army Research Institute)
Hanna, G. S., & Sonnenschein, J. L. (1985). Relative validity of the Orleans-Hanna Algebra Prognosis Test in the prediction of girls' and boys' grades in first-year algebra. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 45, 361–367
Hembree, R. (1988). Correlates, causes, effects and treatment of test anxiety. Review of Educational Research, 58, 47–77
Hong, E. (1995). A structural comparison between state and trait self-regulation models. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 9, 333–349
Hong, E. (1998a). Differential stability of individual differences in state and trait test anxiety. Learning and Individual Differences, 10, 51–69
Hong, E. (1998b). Differential stability of state and trait self-regulation in academic performance. Journal of Educational Research, 91, 148–158
Hong, E. (1999). Test anxiety, perceived test difficulty, and test performance: Temporal patterns of their effects. Learning and Individual Differences, 11, 431–447
Hong, E., & Karstensson, L. (2002). Antecedents of state test anxiety. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 27, 348–367
Hong, E., & O'Neil, H. F. Jr. (2001). Construct validation of a trait self-regulation model. International Journal of Psychology, 36, 186–194
Huang, D. (1996). The role of parental expectation, effort, and self-efficacy in the achievement of high and low track high school students in Taiwan. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Southern California, Los Angeles
Jöreskog, K. G. (1971). Simultaneous factor analysis in several populations. Psychometrika, 36, 409–426
Kanfer, R., Ackerman, P. L., & Heggestad, E. D. (1996). Motivational skills and self-regulation for learning: A trait perspective. Learning and Individual Differences, 8, 185–209
Keinan, G. (1987). Decision making under stress: Scanning of alternatives under controllable and uncontrollable threats. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 639–644
Kim, S. H., & Rocklin, T. (1994). The temporal patterns of worry and emotionality and their differential effects on test performance. Anxiety, Stress & Coping: An International Journal, 7, 117–130
Kimball, M. M. (1989). A new perspective on women's math achievement. Psychological Bulletin, 105, 198–214
Kitsantas, A. (2002). Test preparation and performance: A self-regulatory analysis. The Journal of Experimental Education, 70, 101–113
Kosmicki, J. J. (1993). The Effect of Differential Test Instructions on Math Achievement, Effort, and Worry of Community College Students (Test Anxiety). Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Southern California, Los Angeles
Kupermintz, H., Ennis, M. M., Hamilton, L. S., Talbert, J. E., & Snow, R. E. (1995). Enhancing the validity and usefulness of large-scale educational assessments: I. NELS:88 mathematics achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 32, 525–554
Lent, R. W., Lopez, F. G., & Bieschke, K. J. (1991). Mathematics self-efficacy: Sources and relation to science-based career choice. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 38, 424–430
Lent, R. W., Lopez, F. G., & Bieschke, K. J. (1993). Predicting mathematics-related choice and success behaviors: Test of an expanded social cognitive model. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 42, 223–236
Liebert, R. M., & Morris, L. W. (1967). Cognitive and emotional components of test anxiety: A distinction and some initial data. Psychological Reports, 20, 975–978
Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (1990). A theory of goal setting and task performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall
Lussier, G. (1996). Sex and mathematical background as predictors of anxiety and self-efficacy in mathematics. Psychological Reports, 79, 827–833
MacCallum, R. C., Browne, M. W., & Sugawara, H. M. (1996). Power analysis and determination of sample size for covariance structure modeling. Psychological Methods, 1, 130–149
Malpass, J. R., O'Neil, H. F. Jr., & Hocevar, D. (1999). Self-regulation, goal orientation, self-efficacy, worry, and high-stakes math achievement for mathematically gifted high school students. Roeper Review, 21, 281–288
Manderlink, G., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (1984). Proximal versus distal goal setting and intrinsic motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47, 918–928
Martin, D. J., & Hoover, H. D. (1987). Sex differences in educational achievement: A longitudinal study. Journal of Early Adolescence, 7, 65–83
McCombs, B. L. (1984). Processes and skill underlying continuing intrinsic motivation to learn: Toward a definition of motivational skills training interventions. Educational Psychologist, 19, 199–218
Morris, L. W., Davis, M. A., & Hutchings, C. H. (1981). Cognitive and emotional components of anxiety: Literature review and a revised worry-emotionality scale. Journal of Educational Psychology, 73, 541–555
Morris, L. W., & Fulmer, R. S. (1976). Test anxiety (worry and emotionality) changes during academic testing as a function of feedback and test importance. Journal of Educational Psychology, 68, 817–824. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ156041)
Naglieri, J. A., & Gottling, S. H. (1995). A cognitive education approach to math instruction for the learning disabled: An individual study. Psychological Reports, 76, 1343–1354
Naglieri, J. A., & Gottling, S. H. (1997). Mathematics instruction and PASS cognitive processes: An intervention study. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 30, 513–520
Neuberg, S. L. (1989). The goal of forming accurate impressions during social interactions: Attenuating the impact of negative expectancies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 374–386
O'Neil, H. F., & Abedi, J. (1992). Japanese children's trait and state worry and emotionality in a high-stakes testing environment. Anxiety, Stress & Coping, 5, 253–267
O'Neil, H. F., & Abedi, J. (1996). Reliability and validity of a state metacognitive inventory: Potential for alternative assessment. Journal of Educational Research, 89, 234–245
O'Neil, H. F., Baker, E. L., Ni, Y., Jacoby, A., & Swigger, K. M. (1994). Human benchmarking for the evaluation of expert systems. In H. F. O'Neil, Jr. & E. L. Baker (Eds.), Technology assessments in software applications (pp. 13–45). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum
O'Neil, H. F. Jr., & Fukumura, T. (1992). Relationship of worry and emotionality to test performance in a Juku environment. Anxiety, Stress, and Coping: An International Journal, 5, 241–251
O'Neil, H. F., Jr., & Herl, H. E. (1998, April). Reliability and validity of a trait measure of self-regulation. Presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego, CA
O'Neil, H. F., Sugrue, B., Abedi, J., Baker, E. L., & Golan, S. (1992). Final report of experimental studies on motivation and NAEP test performance (Report to NCES, Grant No. RS90159001). Los Angeles: University of California, Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing
Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. (2000). Knowledge and skills for life: First results from PISA 2000. Paris: Author
Pajares, F. (1996). Self-efficacy beliefs in academic settings. Review of Educational Research, 66, 543–578
Pajares, F., & Kranzler, J. (1995). Self-efficacy beliefs and general mental ability in mathematical problem solving. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 20, 427–444
Pajares, F., & Miller, M. D. (1994). The role of self-efficacy and self-concept beliefs in mathematical problem solving: A path analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology, 86, 193–203
Pajares, F., & Miller, M. D. (1995). Mathematics self-efficacy and mathematics outcomes: The need for specificity of assessment. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 42, 190–198
Paris, S. G., Cross, D. R., & Lipson, M. Y. (1984). Informed strategies for learning: A program to improve children's reading awareness and comprehension. Journal of Educational Psychology, 76, 1239–1252
Pattison, P., & Grieve, N. (1984). Do spatial skills contribute to sex differences in different types of mathematical problems? Journal of Educational Psychology, 76, 678–689
Pintrich, P. R., & Groot, E. V. (1990). Motivational and self-regulated learning components of classroom academic performance. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 33–40
Pintrich, P. R., & Schrauben, B. (1992). Students' motivational beliefs and their cognitive engagement in classroom academic tasks. In D. H. Schunk & J. L. Meece (Eds.), Student perceptions in the classroom (pp. 149–183). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum
Pintrich, P. R., Smith, D. A., Garcia, T., & McKeachie, W. J. (1993). Reliability and predictability of the motivated strategies for learning questionnaire (MSLQ). Educational & Psychological Measurement, 53, 801–813
Powers, D. E. (1987). Test anxiety and the GRE general test (Report No. 86–45). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service
Pressley, M., & Afflerbach, P. (1995). What readers can do when they read: A summary of the results from the on-line self-report studies of reading. In M. Pressley & P. Afflerbach (Eds.), Verbal protocols of reading: The nature of constructively responsive reading (pp. 31–82). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum
Rech, J. F. (1996). Gender differences in mathematics achievement and other variables among university students. Journal of Research & Development in Education, 29, 73–76
Schildkamp-Kuendiger, E. (Ed.). (1982). An international review of gender and mathematics. Columbus: Ohio State University. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED222326)
Schunk, D. H. (1984). Self-efficacy perspective in achievement behavior. Educational Psychologist, 19, 48–58
Schunk, D. H. (1995, August). Development of strategic competence through self-regulation of attributions. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, New York
Schunk, D. H., & Swartz, C. W. (1993). Goals and progress feedback: Effects on self-efficacy and writing achievement. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 18, 337–354
Schwarzer, R. (1993). Measurement of perceived self-efficacy: Psychometric scales for cross-cultural research. Berlin: Forschung an der Freie Universität Berlin
Seegers, G., & Boekaerts, M. (1996). Gender-related differences in self-referenced cognitions in relation to mathematics. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 27, 215–240
Senk, S., & Usiskin, Z. (1983). Geometry proof writing: A new view of sex differences in mathematics ability. American Journal of Education, 91, 187–201
Snow, R., & Ennis, M. (1996). Correlates of high mathematical ability in a national sample of eighth graders. In C. Benbow & D. Lubinski (Eds.), Intellectual talent: Psychometric and social issues (pp. 301–327). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press
Spielberger, C. D. (1972). Anxiety: Current trends in theory and research. Oxford, UK: Academic Press
Spielberger, C. D. (1975). Anxiety: State-trait process. In C. D. Spielberger & I. G. Sarason (Eds.), Stress and anxiety (Vol. 1, pp. 115–143). Washington, DC: Hemisphere
Spielberger, C. D. (1983). Manual for the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (Form Y). Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologist Press
Steele, C. (1997). A threat in the air: How stereotypes shape intellectual identity and performance. American Psychologist, 52, 613–629
Steele, C., & Aronson, J. (1995). Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance of African Americans. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 797–811
Stockard, J., & Wood, J. W. (1984). The myth of female underachievement: A re-examination of sex differences in academic achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 21, 825–838
Tobias, S., & Everson, H. (1995, April). Development and validation of an objective measure of metacognition. In W. E. Montague (Chair), Issues in metacognitive research and assessment. Symposium conducted at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco
Volet, S. E. (1997). Cognitive and affective variables in academic learning: The significance of direction and effort in students' goals. Learning and Instruction, 7, 235–254
Wang, S.-L. (1997). The role of perceived beliefs in effort, self-efficacy, and task value on high school students' effort and math achievement in Taiwan. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Southern California, Los Angeles
Wegner, M., Schwarzer, R., & Jerusalem, M. (1993). Generalized self-efficacy (scale translated in English). In R. Schwarzer (Ed.), Measurement of perceived self-efficacy: Psychometric scales for cross-cultural research. Berlin: Freie Universität Berlin
Weiner, B. (1985). An attribution theory of achievement motivation and emotion. Psychological Review, 92, 548–573
Weiner, B., Friez, I. H., Kukla, A., Reed, L., & Rosenbaum, R. M. (1971). Perceiving the causes and success of failure. Morristown, NJ: General Learning Press
Williams, J. E. (1996). Gender-related worry and emotionality test anxiety for high-achieving students. Psychology in the Schools, 33, 159–162
Willingham, W. W., & Cole, N. S. (1997). Gender and fair assessment. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum
Zeidner, M. (1990). Does test anxiety bias scholastic aptitude test performance by gender and sociocultural group? Journal of Personality Assessment, 55, 145–160
Zeidner, M., & Nevo, B. (1992). Test anxiety in examinees in a college admission testing situation: Incidence, dimensionality, and cognitive correlates. In K. A. Hagtvet, A. Knut, & T. B. Johnsen (Eds.), Advances in test anxiety research (Vol. 7, pp. 288–303). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum
Zimmerman, B. J. (1986). Becoming a self-regulated learner: Which are the key subprocesses? Contemporary Educational Psychology, 11, 307–313
Zimmerman, B. J. (1989). A social cognitive view of self-regulated academic learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 81, 329–339
Zimmerman, B. J. (1990). Self-regulated learning and academic achievement: An overview. Educational Psychologist, 25, 3–17
Zimmerman, B. J. (1994). Conceptual framework for self-regulation. In D. H. Schunk & B. J. Zimmerman (Eds.), Self-regulation of learning and performance: Issues and educational applications (pp. 3–21). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum
Zimmerman, B. J. (1995). Self-regulation involves more than metacognition: A social cognitive perspective. Educational Psychologist, 30, 217–221
Zimmerman, B. J. (2000). Attaining self-regulation: A social cognitive perspective. In M. Boekaerts, P. R. Pintrich, & M. Zeidner (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation (pp. 13–39). San Diego: Academic Press
Zimmerman, B. J., Bandura, A., & Martinez-Pons, M. (1992). Self-motivation for academic attainment: The role of self-efficacy beliefs and personal goal setting. American Educational Research Journal, 29, 663–676
Zimmerman, B. J., & Kitsantas, A. (1999). Acquiring writing revision skill: Shifting from process to outcome self-regulatory goals. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91, 241–250
Zimmerman, B. J., & Martinez-Pons, M. (1988). Construct validation of a strategy model of student self-regulated learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 80, 284–290
Zimmerman, B. J., & Martinez-Pons, M. (1990). Student differences in self-regulated learning: Relating grade, sex, and giftedness to self-efficacy and strategy use. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 51–59
Zimmerman, B. J., & Paulsen, A. S. (1995). Self-monitoring during collegiate studying: An invaluable tool for academic self-regulation. In P. Pintrich (Ed.), New directions in college teaching and learning: Understanding self-regulated learning (Vol. 63, pp. 13–27). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass