Jo Ann Utley

Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

James Craig, Elizabeth Erffmeyer, Retta Poe

Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


The relationship between athletic participation, sex role orientation and self-esteem has received little attention from researchers and the relationship of these variables among females has not received as much attention as it has among males. It has been theorized that participation in sports, particularly team sports, may effect an increase in self-esteem due to increased positive body image and tend to “masculinize” women and/or attract females who possess or value more masculine traits and behaviors.

To address these issues, a comparison of sex role orientation and level of self-esteem was made with female varsity athletes, recreational athletes and nonathletes at Western Kentucky University. The instruments utilized in the study were the Bem Sex Role Inventory, the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory, and an activity instrument on which the women indicated activities in which they had participated since and including the ninth grade. The activity instrument also asked for certain demographic information. The three groups of women were matched according to age, socioeconomic status and marital status.

Significant differences were found between the three groups on sex role orientation. There was a much larger proportion of varsity athletes classified as androgynous when compared to the recreational athletes and nonathletes. In addition, a larger proportion of nonathletes was classified as feminine, and fewer were classified as masculine when compared to the varsity and recreational athletes. Indicated was a trend for an increasing number of females to be classified as androgynous and masculine as athletic participation increased.

No significant differences were found between the groups with regard to level of self-esteem. Possible explanations for the finding are explored.


Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sports Studies | Women's Studies