Sex Roles

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 159-181

First online:

Footballs Versus Barbies: Childhood Play Activities as Predictors of Sport Participation by Women

  • Traci A. GiulianoAffiliated withSouthwestern University
  • , Kathryn E. PoppAffiliated withSouthwestern University
  • , Jennifer L. KnightAffiliated withSouthwestern University

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The present study examined the extent to which childhood play activities predict future sport participation by women. Eighty-four college women (40 Division III varsity athletes and 44 nonathletes) at a predominantly White liberal arts school in the Southwest completed a questionnaire that measured their adult experiences with sports as well as their childhood play activities. The results revealed that playing with “masculine” (rather than “feminine”) toys and games, playing in predominantly male or mixed-gender groups, and being considered a tomboy distinguished between women who later became college athletes and those who did not. These findings suggest that childhood play activities should be considered, along with other agents of socialization (i.e., family, peers, coaches), as important factors in predicting future sport participation by females.