How Do Single Sex Schools Boost Self-Esteem?

An all-girls school can boost a child's confidence.
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By 2011, there were over 500 single sex public schooling programs in the U.S., according to the National Association for Single Sex Public Education. Whether you're a parent who is considering sending your child to a single sex school, or an educator who wants to learn more about the alternatives to a co-ed academic environment, tackling the subject of single sex schools means understanding the benefits of these scenarios. When it comes to a single sex school setting, a child's personal development -- including self-esteem -- can grow and flourish without some of the obstacles that a co-educational program includes.

1 Risk-Taking Behaviors

According to NASSPE, the single sex environment may provide a setting that allows children -- girls in particular -- to take positive risks. While the words "risk-taking behaviors" typically have an association with negative actions, in the academic arena students who take educational risks may feel more confident in exploring new subjects. Single sex classrooms may lead children to a greater sense of self-esteem when it comes to their comfort levels in trying new academic areas. For example, a middle school boy may feel uncomfortable taking a traditionally female home economics class with a group of girls watching him, but may feel confident in making this course choice in an all-boys environment.

2 Domain-Specific Esteem

Some students may build an increased sense of self-esteem through single sex schooling in one, but not all, areas of development. Keep in mind that "self-esteem" is a broad idea that comprises the child's concept of herself in references to all facets of her life. The single sex classroom may help her to build domain-specific senses of self-esteem in areas such as academics, sports or social abilities. By breeding a sense of comfort or lessening the stresses of keeping up with or impressing the other sex, single-sex schools can help kids to develop confidence in these areas.

3 Particpation

Single sex schools can help students to participate more often, boosting their confidence in succeeding in the academic environment. According to the behavioral experts at the CRC Health Group, students in single sex schools often feel more comfortable participating in class. Class participation may lead to increased learning outcomes, providing the student with the chance to feel more confident in his scholastic success and building up his self-esteem. For example, the close-knit grouping of an all-boys class may help a shy child overcome a fear that the members of the opposite sex will laugh at him when he answers a discussion question. The more that he participates, the more confident he will become in his academic endeavors and his own ability to contribute to the class.

4 Role Models and Favoritism

Walking in to a mixed-sex classroom, you might find a competitive environment in which the girls and the boys are both vying for the teacher's attention. While not every girls' school employs only female teachers, and not every boys' school has an all-male staff, having the same sex educator can help students to feel a greater sense of comfort and build self-esteem. Students can look at the same-sex educator as a role model and feel less competitive when it comes to the teacher playing favorites among the boys and the girls. For example, a middle school male math teacher who constantly compares his statistics lessons to baseball stats may seem to favor the boys, making the girls feel uncomfortable when it comes to speaking up in class. If you eliminate this type of favoritism, and maintain a one-sex classroom environment, students may feel an increased sense of self-esteem in their abilities to engage in the course content.

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.