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Parents who influence their children to become scientists: effects of gender and parental education.


Social studies of science

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      In this paper we report on testing the 'role-model' and 'opportunity-structure' hypotheses about the parents whom scientists mentioned as career influencers. According to the role-model hypothesis, the gender match between scientist and influencer is paramount (for example, women scientists would disproportionately often mention their mothers as career influencers). According to the opportunity-structure hypothesis, the parent's educational level predicts his/her probability of being mentioned as a career influencer (that is, parents with higher educational levels would be more likely to be named). The examination of a sample of American scientists who had received prestigious postdoctoral fellowships resulted in rejecting the role-model hypothesis and corroborating the opportunity-structure hypothesis. There were a few additional findings. First, women scientists were more likely than men scientists to mention parental influencers. Second, fathers were more likely than mothers to be mentioned as influencers. Third, an interaction was found between the scientist's gender and parental education when predicting a parent's nomination as influencer.

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      [1 ] Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
      Soc Stud Sci
      Social studies of science
      Dec 2009
      : 39
      : 6


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