Sex Roles

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 159–181

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


  • Traci A. Giuliano
    • Southwestern University
  • Kathryn E. Popp
    • Southwestern University
  • Jennifer L. Knight
    • Southwestern University

DOI: 10.1023/A:1007035122089

Cite this article as:
Giuliano, T.A., Popp, K.E. & Knight, J.L. Sex Roles (2000) 42: 159. doi:10.1023/A:1007035122089


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.

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© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2000