Sex Roles, Vol. 43, Nos. 3/4, 2000
Identity Development and Life Plan Maturity: A
Comparison of Women Athletes and Nonathletes
Jennifer Young and Krisanne Bursik
Is women’s athletic participation related to identity development and differen-
tial life plans? Using a sample of 59 predominantly white, college women
(26 Division III athletes and 33 nonathletes), we examined whether women
higher in identity achievement would describe more mature life plans, ones
with greater complexity and stronger commitment to life goals. Results indi-
cated that athletic participation moderated the relationship between identity
achievement and life plan maturity. While identity achievement was positively
associated with life plan commitment for athletes, identity achievement and
life plan complexity were signiﬁcantly correlated for nonathletes. Implications
for counseling young women around these issues are discussed.
During the last two decades we have witnessed a dramatic increase in the
number of women participating in all ﬁelds of athletics. For years society
deemed it ‘‘acceptable’’ for women to participate in more aesthetically
pleasing sports such as ﬁgure skating and gymnastics, but in recent years
this narrow outlook has been slowly evolving. As a result of the Women’s
Movement, and more speciﬁcally with the passage of the Title IX of the
U.S. Education Amendments of 1972 affecting gender equity in sports,
there has been an emergence of the female athlete as a major feature
of American sport. With the recent founding of the Women’s National
Basketball Association, the Women’s USA Hockey team bringing home
the gold in the 1998 Winter Olympics, and the remarkable success of
women’s soccer at all levels of play, the view of the woman athlete has
become more positive and more diverse.
An earlier version of this paper was presented at the annual meeting of the American
Psychological Association, Boston, Massachusetts, August, 1999.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Department of Psychology, Suffolk Univer-
sity, Beacon Hill, 41 Temple Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02114-4280.
0360-0025/00/0800-0241$18.00/0 2000 Plenum Publishing Corporation