Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


When do Boys Start Smiling Less Than Girls? A Yearbook Photographs Analysis




College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Since the 1980's a growing body of research has focused on gender differences in smiling with the majority of the findings demonstrating that women smile more often and more expansively than men (e.g., Abel, 2002; Ellis, 2006). The current study improves upon previous research by describing the progression of sex differences in smiling from age group to age group through a more comprehensive sample of yearbook photographs. Additionally, we examined gender differences in smiling between African American (AA) and European American (EA) children. Approximately 18,000 yearbook photographs were systematically collected from local elementary schools, junior high schools and high schools. Ethnicity effects were found starting with 7th grade. From 7th to 12th grade, AA showed more no smile than full smile compared to EA. From 10th grade to 12th grade, AA also showed more frequently partial smile than full smile compared to EA. Furthermore, starting from 9th grade the interaction effect gender X ethnicity was significant. A closer inspection of the interaction shows that AA boys show the strongest deviation from all four groups, showing the lowest rates for full smile. Significant gender differences in smiling were found to first emerge in third grade. However, strong and consistent gender differences started to occur in 5th grade and they remained stable until 12th grade: Boys showed significantly more no smile than partial smile as well as more no smile than full smile compared to females.

Conference Name

Biennial Convention of the Society for Research in Child Development

Conference Location

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

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