The Impact Of Gendered Heroism On Adolescent Girls And Their Sport Role Models

Por: Janice Crosswhite, Johanna Vescio e Kerrie Wilde.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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This paper explores the relationship between adolescent girls and their sport role models with a particular focus on gender. From a social learning theoretical perspective the authors argue that girls will tend to select female role models based on the notion of model-observer similarity [1]. Considering gender theory, however, it is debatable whether adolescent girls will choose female sport role models due to the issue of gendered heroism [2,3]. A better understanding of the relationship between girls and their sport role models could enhance initiatives and programs aimed at increasing the participation of adolescent girls in sport and physical activity.

In the first phase of the study qualitative data were collected through two focus group interviews involving female students from two high schools in Sydney (age range 13-17). In the second phase a questionnaire was developed based on the information gained from the focus groups. A total of 357 female students (age range 12-17) from the same schools completed the questionnaires. The respondents represented a range of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Frequencies were calculated using SPSS and the qualitative data were coded and analysed to further explain the quantitative results.

Role models nominated by the adolescent girls came from a range of domains with family (mother) and friends mentioned most frequently. Girls overwhelmingly choose a female role model, however, when their role model came from the sporting domain the percentage of female role models decreased (86.8 versus 73.3% - see Table 1). Qualitative comments suggest that certain personality characteristics of the sport star are essential for adopting him/her as a role model.

The findings of the study support the notion that gender plays a critical role in the adoption of sport role models by adolescent girls. The concepts of model-observer similarity and relevance were strongly supported [4]. Further, the impact of gendered heroism has clearly been demonstrated [5]. The authors argue that sport role models, in gender terms, are ideologically contradictory due to the girls’ perception that a combination of masculine and feminine qualities is essential for sport role models.

[1]. Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
[2]. Hargreaves, J. (2000). Heroines of sport. London: Routledge.
[3]. Messner, M.A., Duncan, M.C. & Cooky, C. (2003). J of Sport and Soc Issues, 27, 38-51.
[4]. Lockwood, P. & Kunda, Z. (1999). J of Personality and Soc Psych, 75, 214-28.
[5]. Biskup, C. & Pfister, G. (1999). European Phys Ed Rev, 5, 199-219.

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