Gender and Age Effects Interact in Preschoolers' Help-Seeking: Evidence for Differential Responses to Changes in Task Difficulty

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This study explored preschool age and gender differences in help-seeking within the theoretical framework of scaffolded problem-solving and self-regulation (Bruner, 1986; Rogoff, 1990; Vygotsky, 1978; 1986). Within-subject analyses tracked changes in help-seeking among 62 preschoolers (34 boys, 28 girls, mean age 4.22 years) solving a challenging puzzle with an adult. The goal was to document whether age and gender interact with fluctuating difficulty to affect children's spontaneous help-seeking. ANOVAs indicated that girls used more help-seeking during difficult segments of the task, despite performance equal to the boys. This pattern was strongest among older girls, who outperformed all other children and used the most help-seeking. Partial correlations, controlling for solving time, indicated that age predicted children's help-seeking during the most difficult segments of the task, but only among girls. Gender differences in social-linguistic maturation and cognitive development are discussed within the framework of Vygotskian theory and related educational practice.

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Original version is available from the publisher at: http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=8710510&fulltextType=RA&fileId=S030500091100047X

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