1. Children have overwhelmingly positive attributional styles, and girls more so than boys.
2. At puberty, this optimism drops.
3. After puberty, girls (and women) rate lower on scales of optimism than boys (and men).
Here's the section on Chapter 8 from my book note:
Failure devastates us. All of us, upon experiencing failure, quit -- at least temporarily. Optimists bounce back and began trying almost immediately; defeat is temporary and achievement is assured. Pessimists, on the other hand, are defined by their failures. They are a failure, and there is no point in a failure continuing to try.
Comment: Children are natural optimists, as discussed earlier, and they sure better be in our schools. We often assure failure by such tactics as grading on the curve. We define relative success as failure. Please note that I am not arguing for low standards or namby-pamby, feel good education. I am simply making a point as to how school is experienced for many students. Is it any wonder that educators report "losing" students as they enter the later middle school years, which is approximately the same time that the natural optimism of childhood wanes. These students are suddenly unable to cope with an environment they have been in long as they can remember. How can such a failure not be a complete turn-off?
Working with Joan Girgus, and building on the work of Carol Dweck, Dr. Seligman and his staff conducted a study of 3rd-grade children from 1995 until they finished seventh grade in 1999. They found that children who began third grade with a pessimistic score on the CASQ were at risk for depression and severely-reduced academic achievement. In addition, bad life events, especially including divorce and parental turmoil, contributed to a pessimistic explanatory style. Over all, boys were significantly more depressed at all points along this age range then were girls.
In college, students with optimistic explanatory styles will outperform predictive measures such as SAT scores or high school grades. Students with pessimistic scores will under perform.