Due to the patriarchal and racial hierarchies that structure education, girls, and specifically girls of color, occupy a marginalized space within it. This is in contrast to boys, who are considered more intellectually gifted, yet held to lower academic and behavioral standards. This study explores the impacts of gender, racial, and ethnic stereotypes perceived by 30 white, Black, and/or Latinx women (ages 18-22) during their experiences in U.S. public middle schools (grades 6-8). Participants were surveyed to ascertain general information about them and their middle school experiences, then invited to participate in focus groups to share their individual narratives. In total, seven focus groups were conducted with 17 women. Utilizing intersectional feminist and constructivist grounded theories as frameworks, this mixed methods research concentrates on the multiple, intersecting barriers, including complex expectations regarding their academic and social-emotional performance, that challenge girls in education compared to boys generally. The survey results suggested a positively correlated relationship between girls' socioeconomic status and perceived positivity of middle school experience. The coded data procured by the focus groups, once organized into categories and analyzed for themes and subthemes, indicated girls' propensity to monitor perceptions of themselves by eight mechanisms: limiting their self-expression, seeking to please others, trying to fit in, worrying about what others think, self-inflicting pressures, struggling with identity, avoiding getting in trouble, and seeking to appease their families. Advancing the representation of girls' internalization of these individually and institutionally conveyed stereotypes is a primary aim of this thesis.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Bubriski, Anne


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program

Social Sciences



Access Status

Open Access

Release Date