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WSF-Funded University of Michigan Study Finds Parents with Traditional Beliefs About Gender May Shortchange Daughters

Parents with the most traditional beliefs about masculinity and femininity are likelier to view pay-to-play sports fees as too high for daughters compared with sons, a new study from the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology suggests.

"Overall, gender role belief played a small but significant role in parents' appraisals of the benefits of sports for girls versus boys," said Kathryn Heinze, assistant professor of sport management at the University of Michigan. "On a large scale, even these small differences could potentially manifest in reduced opportunities for young female athletes."

In conjunction with the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, researchers surveyed a sample of 814 parents in 2012 to examine the relationship between parents' gender role beliefs, views on the benefits of the monetary value of sports and types of sports their daughters play. The average cost to play a sport is $93 weekly, and 21 percent paid $150 or more.

Roughly 37 percent of parents held traditional beliefs about masculinity and femininity as defined in the study.

What does this mean for young female athletes? Studies in the 1990s found fairly large differences in parental views about the appropriateness of sport for girls versus boys.

“"That we found the same, albeit smaller, differences suggests that the gender bias gap in sport may be decreasing, but likely still exists," Heinze said. "More female role models and successful female athletes will continue to help dispel notions that certain sports are masculine or feminine, or that one sex benefits more from participating," she said.

The research was funded by the Women's Sports Foundation, U-M Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy Center, the Institute for Research on Women and Gender and the School of Kinesiology.

Download the study in full here.