Sex Roles [sers] pp853-sers-465626 May 13, 2003 10:56 Style ﬁle version June 3rd, 2002
Sex Roles, Vol. 49, Nos. 1/2, July 2003 (
Sports Participation and Self-Esteem: Variations
as a Function of Gender and Gender Role Orientation
and Becki Cornock
The purpose of this study was to examine the role of gender, sports participation, and gen-
der orientation in predicting individuals’ domain-speciﬁc and global self-esteem. A sample of
100 Grade 11 students completed measures of self-perception, body image, gender orientation,
and sports participation. The results showed that although boys reported greater satisfaction
with weight and appearance, there were no gender differences in general self-worth. In addi-
tion, more feminine individuals who participated in competitive sports reported lower levels
of perceived athletic competence and global self-worth, but reported higher self-esteem when
they participated in more noncompetitive sports. Although sports participation does predict
self-esteem, participants’ gender orientation and the type of sports in which they participate
are moderating factors.
KEY WORDS: self-esteem; body image; sports; gender; gender role orientation.
Adolescence is a time of transition, as individu-
als struggle to deal with physical, cognitive, and so-
cial changes throughout this developmental period.
Such change can be stressful and require signiﬁcant
psychological adjustment. Although it is important to
keep in mind that only about 20% of adolescents have
serious adjustment difﬁculties during the adolescent
period (Offer, Ostrow, & Howard, 1981), a decline
in self-esteem can have a signiﬁcant impact on daily
functioning and future aspirations.
Adolescent girls, in particular, demonstrate sig-
niﬁcant declines in self-esteem throughout this de-
velopmental period (Basow & Rubin, 1999; Gilligan,
1990; Pipher, 1994; Simmons & Blyth, 1987). Boys’
self-esteem also declines during adolescence (Eccles
et al., 1989; Wigﬁeld, Eccles, MacIver, Reunman, &
Portions of this paper were presented at the Biennial Meetings
for the Society for Research in Child Development, Minneapolis,
MN, April 2001.
Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Brandon University, Brandon, Manitoba, Canada.
University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Department
of Psychology, Brandon University, Brandon, Manitoba, Canada
R7A 6A9; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Midgley, 1991) although, in many cases, this de-
cline appears less dramatic than that of girls.
the present study, we focused on sports participa-
tion as a possible protective factor, and examined
the relationship between sports participation and self-
esteem as a function of both gender and gender
Positive self-esteem, or general self-worth
(GSW), allows individuals to feel good about who
they are and what they can do, while at the same time
giving them the conﬁdence necessary to meet new
challenges (Harter, 1988, 1990, 1997). Individualswith
high self-esteem generally have greater, and more ac-
curate, self knowledge than do individuals with low
self-esteem (Baumgardner, 1990). High self-esteem
is also related to active engagement in daily activities,
a more optimistic attitude, and better psychological
health (Taylor & Brown, 1988). Positive self-esteem
and a stable sense of self are both important protective
factors against psychopathology (Rutter, 1997), in-
cluding eating disorders and otherbodyimage-related
These dramatic decreases in girls’ self-esteem are noted most
signiﬁcantly for White girls, and are less apparent for girls of
African descent (American Association of University Women,
1992; Eccles, Barber, Jozefowicz, Malenchuk, & Vida, 1999).
2003 Plenum Publishing Corporation