A comparison of self-esteem, gender role orientation, and body image in adolescent female athletes and nonathletes
Athletic participation for females has increased dramatically during the last two decades. Currently research that looks at the psychological characteristics of female athletes and the impact that sports participation has on young women are important issues concerning the psychological exploration of sports. Three variables which the literature has deemed important in determining the differences between female athletes and nonathletes are self-esteem, gender role orientation, and body image. Although there are some inconsistencies, the literature generally demonstrates that females who participate in sports have higher self-esteem, more positive body images, and perceive themselves as psychologically more masculine than their non-athletic peers. In addition, research also suggests that women who have masculine gender role orientations have higher self-esteem and more positive body image self-concepts. The present study examined self-esteem, gender role orientation, and body image of adolescent female athletes and compared them with adolescent female nonathletes. The sample was comprised of 103 undergraduate females from three colleges in the northeast. The measures used to assess the variables were The Feelings of Inadequacy Scale (Fleming & Courtney, 1984), the Personal Attributes Questionnaire (Spence, Helmreich, & Stapp, 1974, 1975), and The Body Esteem Scale (Franzoi & Shields, 1984). In addition, an extensive demographic questionnaire was devised to assess the women's participation or non-participation in sports and extra-curricular activities during high school. Including the latter variable makes this study distinct from previous studies that had only considered two groups: athletes and nonathletes. The current study was comprised of four groups including female adolescents who participated in sports only, female adolescents who participated in sports and extra-curricular activities, female adolescents who participated in extra-curricular activities other than sports, and female adolescents who did not participate in sports nor in any other extra-curricular activities. Since extra-curricular participation was a continuous variable that cut across both the athlete and nonathletic group, theoretically valuable and interesting interaction effects were also investigated. Results of sports participation (yes, no) by extra-curricular participation (yes, no) ANOVAs indicated that adolescent female athletes had significantly higher self-esteem and body esteem, and perceived themselves as psychologically more masculine and less feminine than their non-athletic counterparts. In addition, there were significant interaction effects (sport participation x extra-curricular participation) that impacted results for the hypotheses concerning self-esteem and masculine gender role orientation. The interaction effects suggested that the effects of sports participation on self-esteem and a masculine gender role were moderated by the effect of extra-curricular participation. Finally, a correlation revealed that the athletes who perceived themselves as psychologically more masculine and less feminine had significantly higher self-esteem and body esteem as compared with the other athletes. The findings of this study can be useful for high school curricula which should be amended to require participation in sports. School psychologists can be instrumental in implementing sports programs for young women. Based on the results of this study as well as previous research, sports participation during school is invaluable for girls in terms of increasing self-esteem and promoting more positive body images.
Novick, Elissa Rosenzweig, "A comparison of self-esteem, gender role orientation, and body image in adolescent female athletes and nonathletes" (1998). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI9908034.
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