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Child Development Research
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 830345, 9 pages
Research Article

The Role of Athletics in the Self-Esteem of Tomboys

1Department of Psychology, New York University, 6 Washington Place, New York, NY 10003, USA
2Department of Psychology, Princeton University, Green Hall, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
3Department of Psychology, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794, USA

Received 15 June 2011; Accepted 19 October 2011

Academic Editor: Masha Gartstein

Copyright © 2011 May Ling Halim et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Many girls self-identify as tomboys, yet little is known about their experiences. Tomboys deviate from gender stereotypes; they also may be more highly aware of gender status differences. Because tomboys may feel different from others and more keenly feel the lower status of their gender group, they may suffer from lower levels of self-esteem. Yet many tomboys also tend to participate in athletics, an activity that often leads to higher levels of self-esteem. Two studies sought to disentangle the interactive effects of tomboy identification and athleticism on self-esteem. Study 1 sampled 144 female undergraduates and Study 2 sampled 66 girls aged from 8 to 13. In both studies, greater self-identification as a tomboy during childhood was associated with lower current self-esteem, but only for less athletic participants. Tomboys who were highly athletic had high levels of self-esteem. Together these findings suggest that participating in athletics can protect tomboys from decreased self-esteem.