The literature has
found conflicting results on the effects that athletics have on the self-esteem
of females. Several studies have also found that female athletes
are more androgynous than nonathletes and this may be a contributing factor
to the differences in self-esteem. This study was done on a group
of 34 females from a small, Catholic, liberal arts college in the northeast.
The research looked to determine if there are significant differences in
self-esteem and/or gender role orientation between a group of athletes
and nonathletes. Nineteen of the participants were athletes and fifteen
were nonathletes. Athletes were defined as those who played a varsity
sport for two or more seasons in high school. Participants were given
a background information questionnaire, the Bem Sex Role Inventory and
the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory. There were no significant
differences found between the groups on self-esteem, but the self-esteem
of the athlete group was higher than the nonathlete group as predicted.
The mean scores for athletes were also higher than the nonathletes on masculinity,
femininity and androgyny. These results imply that female athletes
have a lot of both feminine and masculine characteristics (resulting in
androgyny). The correlation between self-esteem and masculinity found
significant results for the overall group and for the nonathletes.
This suggests that female participation in athletics leads to an increase
in masculine characteristics and that masculine traits may be a strong
predictor of high self-esteem. This research should encourage females
to participate in athletics for the positive emotional effects they can
I would like to thank everyone
that has helped me get through this semester and keep a smile on my face
(most of the time). First off, I want to thank Professor Ossoff for
all of her help, guidance and encouragement along the way. I also
want to thank Professor McKenna for all of her help in Experimental I.
Thanks to all of the volunteers and friends who took part in this study.
It would not have been possible without your help. Thanks also goes
out to my friends who have put up with my complaints all semester...especially
Mary Anne, I would never have finished without you. Thanks for always putting
things in perspective for me and for being around whenever I needed you.
Thanks to my roommates Bihhy, Tanir and Nax and to Patrice for their support
and for always knowing just how to make me laugh when I wanted to cry.
Thanks also to Mark (Bark) Hogan for all of your help in the computer lab.
Lastly, I want to thank Mom, Dad and Jenna for their love and support throughout
this long process and for listening to me whine about all of my computer
There has been a huge
increase in the number of girls participating in high school sports over
the past few decades. It was reported that in 1971, only 1 in 27
girls participated in sports, while that number increased to 1 in 3 girls
in 1994 (Baum, 1994). Athletics may impact issues surrounding the
self-esteem and overall mental health of female adolescents. There
is much evidence in support of the idea that female athletes have a significantly
higher self-esteem than nonathletes (Novick, 1991); yet there is some evidence
to the contrary (Fisher, 1996). The issue of the impact of gender
role pressures may also be of importance to the female athlete. It has
been suggested that female athletes may have more masculine traits than
nonathletes (Novick, 1999; Covey & Feltz, 1991). This study will attempt
to address both of these issues by attempting to 1.) determine whether
or not there is a significant difference in the self-esteem of female athletes
and nonathletes; and 2.)look at the part that gender role orientation plays
in athletics. These issues are of great importance as girls continue
to participate in athletic endeavors.
Biddle (1993) reported that
the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) has found evidence to support
the idea that exercise has beneficial emotional effects for both males
and females. The research supports the following conclusions: 1)
exercise has beneficial emotional effects across all ages and in both sexes
2) exercise has been associated with decreased levels of mild to moderate
depression; and 3) Long-term exercise is usually associated with
reductions in traits such as neuroticism and anxiety. However, some
questions were raised because much of the research done by the NIMH was
done on an adult population. The research suggests that although
exercise produces mental health benefits in adults, more tentative conclusions
should be drawn about children because this area has not been researched
as thoroughly. Stephens (1988) conducted a secondary analysis (looked at
previous research) of four surveys in order to determine if there is an
association between physical activity and various aspects of mental health.
The subjects ranged in age from fourteen to fifty. He found that
level of physical activity is positively correlated with a positive mood,
general well being, and decreased levels of depression and anxiety.
These findings were even more pronounced in the female population.
Gruber (1986) conducted a
meta-analysis of twenty-seven different studies to look at the benefits
of physical activity on the psychological development of both male and
female children. The subjects in the various studies ranged in age
from elementary school through age 18. Gruber found evidence for a positive
influence of exercise on self-esteem. The children in these studies
who were physically active displayed self-esteem scores close to one half
of a standard deviation higher than those children who were inactive.
Several studies have also been done that have failed to find a significant
difference between female athletes and nonathletes on self-esteem.
One study that found somewhat contradictory results to those cited above
was done by Fisher (1996). Fisher examined the positive and negative
correlates of inner city youth. The subjects in his study were 838
students (males and females) in gym classes of an urban New York City high
school. All of the students in the study reported some type of involvement
in sports. The results showed that 46% of the students had high self-esteem
and 52% had moderate levels of self-esteem. Fisher found high self-esteem
to be significantly associated with improved academic performance, but
was not associated with time spent on sports or participation in local
or varsity teams. Depression was not found to be associated with
either academic performance or sports involvement. There was also
no relationship found between types or amounts of sports participation
and either self-esteem or depression. One possible confounding variable
to this study is the fact that it was done in an inner city. There
may not be proper facilities for these students to play sports, and therefore
they are not encouraged to do so. Another study with similar results
was carried out by Taylor (1995). The participants in this study
were 651 college students. Two hundred thirty were varsity athletes
and the other 421 were nonathletes. Both males and females were included
in the study. This study found that athletic participants had higher
levels of self-esteem than the non-participants in the senior, junior,
and sophomore classes, but not in the freshman class. However, none
of these differences were statistically significant, although the data
for the senior class was close to significance at the .05 level (P= .056).
The data also showed that the athletes in the senior class had a significantly
higher self-esteem than the freshman athletes, but there was no significant
difference between the classes for nonathletes. These findings suggest
that although athletic participation may positively effect self-esteem,
sports alone do not have a statistically significant effect (Taylor, 1995).
This study concludes that athletics may be one of many college activities
that contribute to a positive effect on self-esteem and mental health,
but is not the sole contributor. Another hypothesis that this study
raises is that sports may not influence self-esteem, but it is those students
with the higher self-esteem who continue on to play sports at the college
level. Kumar, Thakur & Pathak (1985) also came to the conclusion
that perhaps higher self-esteem increases confidence and therefore reinforces
Uguccioni & Ballantyne
(1980) conducted a study of 333 female college students. They were
broken into three groups (Group 1= 83 female varsity athletes; Group 2=
192 females who participated in competitive athletics on a limited basis;
Group 3= 58 females with no competitive athletic participation).
The three groups were given the Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI) and the Attitudes
Toward Women Scale. The findings were that the athletic women were
most often classified as androgynous followed by masculine. The second
group was most often feminine and least likely masculine. Group 3
scored the highest on the feminine sex role followed closely by the undifferentiated.
These findings suggest that only women who participate in athletics on
a regular basis have an increase in masculine characteristics, while occasional
participants and non-participants do not.
Another study that found evidence
in support of female athletes possessing more masculine qualities than
nonathletes was done by Desertrain and Weiss (1988). They looked
at the relationships among gender role conflict, gender role orientation
and female sport participation. Their sample consisted of 106 female
high school students (74 athletes and 32 nonathletes). They found
an equal number of masculine, androgynous, and undifferentiated athletes,
and fewer in the feminine category. In the nonathlete group, undifferentiated
was the most common. There were equal numbers of feminine and androgynous
participants and very few were masculine (Desertrain, 1988). These
findings suggest that female athletes often score high on both masculinity
and femininity (androgyny) or higher on masculinity alone. Nonathletes
often score low on masculinity and higher on measures of femininity.
The present research will examine the gender role orientation of athletes
and nonathletes to see if athletes do indeed score higher on measures of
androgyny and/or masculinity.
Self-Esteem and Gender Role
A number of studies have been
done to examine the possible benefits of female participation in sports.
Novick (1999) found that three variables are important in determining the
psychological differences between female athletes and nonathletes. A sample
of 103 college females was assessed on the three variables of self-esteem,
gender role orientation and body image. It was found that females
who participate in sports generally have higher self-esteem, more positive
body images and perceive themselves as being more masculine than their
non-athletic peers (Novick, 1999). Novick's results indicated that
adolescent females who are involved in sports have significantly higher
self-esteem and body esteem, and perceive themselves as more masculine
and less feminine than those who are not involved. It was also found
that the athletes who did perceive themselves as more masculine and less
feminine had significantly higher self-esteem and body esteem as compared
to the other female athletes who perceived themselves as more feminine.
Holland and Andre (1994) also had some important findings in this area.
They looked at social status as measured by how the subject’s wished to
be remembered after high school, types of sports participants preferred
for their own date/friend to participate in and self-esteem. They
divided the sports that the subjects participated in into "female" sports
such as swimming, tennis and golf, and "male" sports such as football,
baseball and basketball. Those who did participate in sports were
then broken up into categories for sex-appropriate sports and sex-inappropriate
sports based on which they played. Their sample consisted of 422
high school students and 319 college students. They found differences
between and among males and females on all 3 social status measures.
The self-esteem category had several significant findings. Among
males, it was found that participation in any type of sport was positively
related to self-esteem. An unexpected finding, although not statistically
significant, was that males who were identified with sex-inappropriate
sports reported higher self-esteem than athletes in sex-appropriate sports.
The results for females showed that participation in sex-appropriate sports
was related to higher self-esteem when compared to sex-inappropriate sports
or nonathletes. Also, females who participated in more feminine sports
were apparently rewarded with higher peer status and better perceptions
about themselves. According to these findings, females who participate
in athletics not only view themselves more favorably, but others view them
more favorably as well. Delaney and Lee (1995) examined the idea
that females who are involved in athletics may be experiencing some role
conflict. The participants in the study were 163 high school students.
Seventy-two were male and 91 were female. Those students who reported
three or more sessions of any athletic activity per week were considered
to be highly active. Forty-one males and 41 females fit this description.
The results showed that the highly active group for both males and females
scored higher on self-esteem measures and higher on masculine-positive
traits. They also showed that this group scored higher on feminine-positive
traits. These findings support the idea that regular involvement
in sports activity can benefit self-esteem and androgyny. It also
suggests that regular physical activity may enhance, rather than take away
from, their perceptions of themselves as feminine. However,
the female and male athletes in the study scored high on both masculine
and feminine traits, which suggests that androgyny may be a characteristic
of athletes of both sexes. The current research will look into the
issue of sex roles and androgyny of female athletes and nonathletes even
further to determine if there is a significant difference between the two.
A study done by Miller and
Levy (1996) also examined this gender role issue. They looked at gender
role conflict, masculinity, femininity, physical appearance self-concept,
athletic competence self-concept, body image self-concept and athletic
participation of parents among a group of 76 female athletes and 69 nonathletes.
Significant correlations were found among athletic status and levels of
masculinity, femininity, physical appearance self-concept and parental
participation in sports. Higher masculinity and physical appearance
self-concept were found in the athletes, while lower femininity was associated
with the athletic group. Results indicated no significant differences in
the gender role conflict of athletes and nonathletes. This supports
the idea that female athletes, although they may have more masculine characteristics,
are secure in this gender role possibly because of their higher self-concept.
Covey and Feltz (1991) did a study that examined the relationship between
adolescent girls’ past and present physical activity levels and their self-image
and gender role identity. The participants were 149 female high school
students. The girls were divided into four groups after doing a self-report
questionnaire about their activity level. These groups were physically
active, physically inactive, increasing physical activity and decreasing
physical activity. They were then given a self-image questionnaire
and a sex role inventory.
The major findings were that
the active group scored significantly higher on the self-image questionnaire
than the inactive group. However, the decreasing activity level group
did not differ significantly from the active group on the self-image questionnaire.
The active group also reported significantly more of both masculine and
feminine characteristics than the inactive group supporting the idea that
female athletes are often androgynous.
These results indicate that
physical activity may be associated with higher scores on both masculinity
and femininity scales, greater perception of physical abilities, and more
positive psychological functioning (Covey & Feltz, 1991). Therefore,
this study suggests that physical activity may be inversely related to
some negative aspects of mental health such as depression, anxiety, and
lack of self-confidence. The physically active females had feelings
of psychological well-being and more positive self- concepts than the inactive
group (Covey & Feltz, 1991). The results of this study support
the idea that involvement in athletic activity provides various benefits
to females including a higher self-esteem. The present research will
look at this issue and attempt to determine the level of the difference
in self-esteem between athletes and nonathletes. A study on female
athletes conducted by Hall (1986) found similar results to Covey &
Feltz (1991) and Uguccioni & Ballantyne (1980). His sample was
a group of 75 female college athletes and 75 college female nonathletes.
Each of the subjects completed a scale of masculinity/femininity.
They were then divided into four groups: masculine, feminine, androgynous
(which means high on both male and female characteristics) and undifferentiated
(low on both male and female characteristics). The main effect for
the group athlete versus nonathlete was insignificant for self-esteem,
but the scores for athletes were higher. There also were not any
significant differences in self-esteem scores between the athletes who
engaged in the more feminine sports (swimming, tennis, golf) and those
who participated in the more masculine sports (basketball, track).
However, this study did produce several significant findings. The
feminine sex-role typed nonathletes did have a significantly lower self-esteem
than all of the other participants. There were a large number (N=37)
of androgynous individuals among the athlete group and few among the nonathlete
group (N=16). There was also a large number of feminine individuals
among the nonathletes (N=30) and a small number among the athletes (N=12).
The results of this study show that there are a much greater proportion
of androgynous female athletes than in a comparable group of nonathletes.
There is also evidence for a high positive correlation between self-esteem
and the androgynous sex-role type. The current research will 1) look
for a relationship between androgyny and athletes; and 2) look at how androgyny
affects self-esteem. In 1981, Del Rey and Shepard did a study on
119 female college students, all of whom were also varsity athletes.
They were broken down into the same four categories as the previous study
and had similar findings. The androgynous participants had significantly
higher self-esteem than the feminine and undifferentiated participants
and the masculine participants had a significantly higher self-esteem than
the undifferentiated group. This supports the evidence that androgyny
predicts the highest relationship to self-esteem in female athletes.
This study suggests that participants in competitive athletics would be
primarily androgynous because participation in athletics requires sex role
adaptability for females. It discusses the fact that the traditional
view of an athlete is not feminine and also says that stereotypically feminine
characteristics have not been found to yield high self-esteem (Del Rey
& Shepard, 1981). Female athletes must come out from this stereotype
and be more aggressive and sure of themselves. The literature
on this subject has found contradictory results as to whether athletics
actually do have a significant impact on the self-concept of female adolescents.
Several studies have found significant differences, but some research has
lead to the opposite conclusion. One finding that was repeated in
most of these studies is that female athletes are often androgynous, or
high in both masculine and feminine characteristics. The major gender
role difference between athletes and nonathletes is that athletes score
high on both feminine and masculine characteristics. This suggests
that it may be more masculine qualities that are related to a higher self-esteem
because all females have feminine characteristics. It is important
that this subject be researched further to come to a decisive answer about
the effects of athletics on female adolescents. Young girls who have an
interest in sports are often referred to as "tomboys". This gives
the impression that it is not feminine to play sports and I feel that this
should be changed. If athletics do lead to a more positive self esteem,
then parents and others should encourage young girls to play sports and
be physically active to prevent problems such as lack of self-esteem and
depression which are common in adolescent females today (Covey & Feltz,
1991). The present research will attempt look for any significant differences
in the self-esteem and gender role orientation of female athletes and nonathletes.
The hypothesis of this research
is that the female athletes will have a higher self-esteem than the nonathletes
and also that the female athletes will score higher on a measure of androgyny
than the nonathletes.
The participants were 34 female
students from a small liberal arts college in the northeast. Their
ages ranged from 18-22. The mean age was 18.9. The participants
were divided into two groups: athletes and nonathletes. Nineteen
of the participants were athletes (defined as those who played a varsity
sport for two or more seasons in high school). Thirteen of the athletes
were introductory psychology students who participated for course credit.
The other six participants in the athlete group were volunteers.
Fifteen of the participants were nonathletes. Eight of the nonathletes
were introductory psychology students who participated for course credit.
The other seven participants in the nonathlete group were volunteers.
The participants were measured
on responses to three different questionnaires. One questionnaire
consisted of background questions to provide the researcher with personal
information about each participant (i.e. age, grade, sports played etc.).
The nonathletes received a similar questionnaire that also inquired about
any extracurricular activities they took part in . The Bem Sex Role
Inventory (BSRI), created by Sandra Bem (1974), was used to determine the
participants perceived gender role. It consists of 60 personality
characteristics such as happy, jealous and ambitious, which are ranked
on a Likert scale of 1 (never/almost never true) to 7 (always/almost always
true). Twenty of the characteristics are stereotypically masculine
traits such as: "Independent, Assertive, and Competitive." The characteristics
scored as feminine include "Affectionate, Cheerful, and Gullible."
The other twenty traits are neutral and are not involved in the scoring
process. Answers create scores for the categories of masculine, feminine,
androgynous (high on both masculine and feminine characteristics) and undifferentiated
(low on both masculine and feminine characteristics). Bem (1974)
reported high internal consistency (Masculinity r=.86; Femininity r=.82).
A recent study reassessed the validity of the adjectives used on the BSRI
and found that it is still a valid measurement of gender roles (Holt et
al., 1998). The Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory (1981) was also
used. It consists of 25 favorable or unfavorable items that the subjects
define as like themselves or not like themselves. These include "I'm
popular with persons my own age" and "I can't be depended on." Coopersmith
reported the test to have reasonable construct, concurrent and predictive
validity. Bedeian, Geagud and Zmud found coefficients for test-retest reliability
(.80 for males; .82 for females) .
The participants were seated
at desks and were given an informed consent form, a set of subject instructions
, and a packet consisting of the three questionnaires. The informed
consent form was collected before the participants began filling out the
questionnaires. The background information questionnaire was filled
out first followed by the Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI) and the Coopersmith
Self-Esteem Inventory (SEI). Upon the completion of the three questionnaires,
the participants passed the packet into the experimenter. They were
then given a debriefing form which explained the experiment in more detail
and thanked for their participation.
Various correlations and independent
sample t-tests were run to look at any possible similarities within groups
and/or differences between groups. There were two significant findings
within the correlations, but no significance was found on the t-tests.
However, several of the statistics were in the predicted direction and
supportive of the hypothesis. All of the participants were also assigned
a gender role based on their responses to the BSRI. All results reported
for the nonathlete group on the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory are based
on 13 participants because two of the participants only filled out the
first two questionnaires (background information and the BSRI) and neglected
to fill out the SEI.
There were four independent
sample t-tests performed on the dependent variables to look for any significant
differences between the groups athlete and nonathlete on the dependent
variables of self-esteem, masculinity, femininity and androgyny.
The first t-test looked for a difference between athlete and nonathlete
on the masculinity score on the BSRI. No significance was found,
but the mean masculinity score was higher for the athlete group.
These results are in the predicted direction. The next test was run on
the group athlete vs. nonathlete on the femininity score on the BSRI.
There was no significance discovered, but the mean score for femininity
was also higher in the athlete group. A t-test was next run on athlete
vs. nonathlete and the androgyny score on the BSRI. There was no
significance found, but the mean androgyny score was higher in the athlete
group as predicted. The last independent samples t-test was run on
the group’s athlete vs. nonathlete and their scores on the Coopersmith
SEI. The results are approaching significance (T(30)=1.73, p=.093)
. The mean score on the SEI was also much higher in the athlete group
(See Table 1).
The scores on the Coopersmith
Self-Esteem Inventory were correlated with three different scores from
the Bem Sex Role Inventory: femininity, masculinity and androgyny for all
of the participants and also for the athletes and nonathletes individually.
There were no significant correlations found between the SEI score and
the participant’s femininity or androgyny scores for any group. However,
the results for the correlation between the SEI score and the masculinity
score were significant at the .10 level (p=.084) for the overall group
. The results for the same correlation were significant for
the nonathlete group at the .05 level (p=.054). There was a positive
correlation between masculinity and self-esteem for the overall group,
the athlete group and the nonathlete group. There was a negative
correlation between femininity and self-esteem scores for all three groups.
There was a positive correlation between self-esteem and androgyny for
the overall group and the nonathlete group, but a negative correlation
between the two for the athletes (see Table 2).
The participants in both groups
(athlete and nonathlete) were assigned a gender role based on their responses
to the Bem Sex Role Inventory. The most common gender role among
the athlete group was androgynous, followed by undifferentiated and masculine
of which there were equal numbers of participants. The least common
gender role was feminine. Among the nonathletes, the majority of
participants were undifferentiated. There were equal numbers of androgynous
and feminine participants and the least common gender role was masculine
The purpose of this
research project was to determine if participation in athletics has a significant
effect on the self-esteem of females. It was also looking to determine
if there are differences in gender role orientation in female athletes
and nonathletes. Past research has suggested that exercise has beneficial
emotional effects including a positive influence on self-esteem (Stephens,
1988; Gruber; 1986; Novick, 1991). It has also been observed that
female athletes have more masculine traits than nonathletes and as a result
are more androgynous (Novick, 1991; Delaney & Lee, 1995; Uguccioni
& Ballantyne, 1980). The hypotheses of this study were that female
athletes would have a higher self-esteem than nonathletes and would also
score higher on a measure of androgyny. The four independent samples
t-tests that were performed on the dependent variables did not reveal any
significant findings. However, the mean self-esteem, femininity,
masculinity, and androgyny scores were all higher for the athlete group.
The fact that the athletes’ mean scores on the measures of femininity,
masculinity and androgyny are higher is supportive of the hypothesis.
The prediction was that athletes would score higher on a measure of androgyny
than the nonathletes. Androgyny means high scores on both masculine
and feminine traits. The fact that the athletes scores were
higher on both masculinity and femininity would in turn lead to a higher
androgyny score. This finding is also consistent with past literature
that has found female athletes to have a higher androgyny score than nonathletes
(Desertrain & Weiss, 1988; Novick, 1999). The current research
also found that the most common gender role among the athletes was androgynous
and the least common was feminine. Among the nonathletes, the most
common gender role was undifferentiated and the least common was masculine.
This supports the idea that athletics lead to an increase in masculine
characteristics in females. This finding is consistent with past
research as well. Uguccioni & Ballantyne (1980) found that female
athletes are most often classified as androgynous. Hall (1986) found
that female athletes are most often classified as androgynous and nonathletes
are most often classified as feminine on measures of gender role orientation.
The hypotheses of this study stated that the female athletes would score
higher on a measure of self-esteem and higher on a measure of androgyny
than the nonathletes, both of which they did. However, it seems to
be the masculine characteristics that are related to self-esteem.
This increase in masculine characteristics is then added to the feminine
characteristics that these females already possess (creating androgyny).
The increase in masculine traits is what leads to a higher self-esteem,
and not the androgyny alone. The athletes may be more aggressive and competitive
(male stereotyped traits) as well as have other male stereotyped traits
due to their participation in sports. The demands for playing athletics
may encourage the development of these masculine traits in female athletes,
but their feminine traits also continue to develop which leads to the higher
androgyny score. The nonathletes may not have developed these masculine
characteristics because they have not had a use for them, but their feminine
traits continue to develop which is why this is the most common gender
role for the nonathlete group. The present research found a large
difference in the self-esteem of athletes and nonathletes. Although
the results for self-esteem between the groups athlete and nonathlete were
not statistically significant, they were approaching significance
(p= .093). This is supportive of past research. Covey & Feltz
(1991) found that physically active females had a more positive self-concept
that an inactive group. Novick (1999) reported that adolescent females
who are involved in athletics have a significantly higher self-esteem and
body esteem than nonathletes. Gruber (1986) and Stephens (1988) both
found that level of physical activity is related to self-esteem as well.
It is possible that females
who play sports are in better shape than nonathletes and therefore they
look and feel better about themselves. Our society today places a
great deal of importance on body shape and size. This may have a
lot to do with how people perceive themselves which in turn influences
The correlations that were
run among self-esteem and masculinity found near significance between the
self-esteem score and the masculinity score for the overall group (p=.084)and
were significant for the nonathlete group (p=.054). This shows that
there is a strong relationship between self-esteem and masculine-like character
traits. This may be because many of the traits that are stereotypically
seen as feminine are things such as submissiveness and soft-spokenness
(Bem, 1974). These traits do not allow for a woman to speak her own
mind or be her own person. Stereotypically masculine traits are things
such as independence and assertiveness (Bem, 1974). These are the
types of characteristics that are valued by our culture, whereas the feminine-like
traits are not valued. Therefore, possessing these characteristics
may lead women to feel more secure about themselves and more capable of
taking control of a situation. This may result in a more positive
self-esteem. It has been proposed that the Bem Sex Role Inventory
measures instrumentality and expressiveness as opposed to masculinity and
femininity. Instrumental traits are those that involve taking control
and being in charge. Expressive traits are those that involve emotions
and connections with others (Helmreich, Spence & Holohan, 1979).
Research has shown that high instrumental trait scores are associated with
decreased levels of depression and higher self-esteem for men and women.
There was no relationship found between expressive trait scores and self-esteem
(Waelde, Silvem & Hodges, 1994). This research suggests that it is
these instrumental traits that are related to self-esteem and not masculine
characteristics. A correlation does not allow us to infer causation.
It is possible that masculine traits lead to a higher self-esteem, but
it is also possible that high self-esteem may lead to the development of
masculine traits. For the purposes of this study one possibility
may be that the females who continue to play sports in high school and
college are those who have a higher self-esteem to begin with. Perhaps
these girls feel better about themselves and are more confident with their
abilities and therefore continue on to play sports at higher more competitive
levels. One way to answer this question in future research would
be to do a longitudinal study. If females were given a measure of
self-esteem before, during and after they participated in athletics for
a number of years, this would help answer the question of whether self-esteem
influences athletics or athletics influences self-esteem. There are
a few aspects of this study which could be changed in order to get more
generalizeable results. The participant count was relatively low
(N=35) and the size of each group was also small(N=19 athletes; N=15 nonathletes)
due to the scope of this study. A larger sample size may lead to
more significant results. Since the means on each of the tests (self-esteem,
masculinity and femininity) were all in the predicted direction, a larger
participant count may find an even greater difference between the two groups.
Another thing that could be
adjusted would be to get a more diverse group of participants. The
participants in this study were all very similar on a number of variables
including age, education and socioeconomic status. It is possible
that these variables may play a role in the variables of interest.
Middle and upper class girls may have a higher self-esteem at the outset
due to their position in society. They may have also been encouraged
to play sports more than the lower socioeconomic class. The increasing
costs of equipment and uniforms necessary to play sports may make access
to playing sports less available for the lower class. In order for
this study to be generalizeable to the population as a whole, a larger
and more diverse sample would be necessary. Future research may want
to look at the ways in which athletics affects self-esteem in male athletes.
Since most males already have a lot of masculine traits, it would be interesting
to note whether or not athletics would have an effect on their self-esteem.
Holland and Andre (1994) found that participation in any type of sport
was positively related to self-esteem for males and females. Perhaps,
playing athletics brings out these masculine traits such as competitiveness
in males as well and leads to an increase in their self-esteem also.
The knowledge gained from this research is both practical and beneficial
to society today. The study was done to determine if participation
in athletics is related to a higher self-esteem in females. The findings
suggest that athletics do indeed lead to a higher self-esteem. Over
the past few decades, female participation in sports has increased dramatically
at the high school level (Baum, 1994). Hopefully, the results of
this study will cause this number to rise even more. It may influence
parents to encourage their daughters to become involved in sports from
a young age. This research may be helpful to town athletic leagues
and suggest to them that they promote female participation in their programs.
It should also encourage more and more females to begin playing sports
and continue playing sports as they grow up for both the emotional benefits
and the overall health benefits. Related research may lead schools
to implement a requirement for girls to have to participate in some type
of athletics for the positive effects they provide. Research done
in this area may also be useful to school counselors and psychologists
as they may suggest participation in sports to females who have low self-esteem.
In conclusion, this research project as well as many other studies has
discovered that participation in athletics for females results in an increase
in masculine characteristics (creating androgyny) which may lead to a higher
self-esteem. Sports are no longer a primarily male domain.
Females continue to become increasingly involved in athletics. There
are psychological, emotional and health benefits that regular athletic
activity can provide and for this reason all females should be encouraged
to participate in athletics.
Means for Athletes and Nonathletes on their Femininity, Masculinity and
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Correlations of the Relationship Between Participants’ Scores on the Coopersmith
Self-Esteem Inventory and the Masculinity, Femininity and Androgyny Scores
on the Bem Sex Role Inventory
All Participants (N=34)
Self Esteem Score:
Self Esteem Score:
Self Esteem Score
Note: *p< .10
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