Date of Award:

5-2019

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Educational Specialist (EdS)

Department:

Psychology

Advisor/Chair:

Gretchen Gimpel Peacock

Abstract

This study focused on the types of messages female middle school students receive about their gender from their peers. Specifically, it looked at microaggressions, which are sexist messages from peers, and microaffirmations, which are positive and affirming messages from peers. There were four goals of this study. First, to check if the Students Affirming Girls in Middle School scale (SAG-MS), a scale created for this study, could consistently measure microaggressions and microaffirmations. Second, to look at the relationship between when girls experience puberty and microaggressions and microaffirmations. Third, to measure any differences in the number of microaggressions and microaffirmations girls receive from boys versus other girls. And fourth, to determine if microaffirmations can protect girls’ engagement in school from the negative effects of microaggressions. The participants of this study were 121 female middle or junior high school students who were recruited through Qualtrics, a research sampling service, to complete online surveys. Results of the study showed that the SAG-MS has an acceptable level of internal consistency, meaning that participants responded to items on the scale in a similar manner. Results also showed that when girls experience puberty does not have a significant relationship with how many microaggressions they receive or how many microaffirmations they receive. Middle school girls were also found to receive more microaggressions from boys than other girls and more microaffirmations from other girls than boys. Finally, results showed that girls’ engagement in school went down when they experienced more microaggressions, but if girls’ received many microaffirmations this drop did not occur. These findings suggest that microaggressions are occurring in middle school and that they can lead to decreases in girls’ engagement in school. However, microaffirmations given by peers have the potential to protect middle school girls from experiencing this drop in engagement.

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