202673 “If it's just one person and you have a bunch of boys then you're obviously gonna have to walk off the court”: Challenges to gender equity in after-school physical activity promotion

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 2:45 PM

Tracy R. Nichols, PhD , Department of Public Health Education, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC
Amanda S. Birnbaum, PhD, MPH , Department of Health & Nutrition Sciences, Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ
Sara V. Birnel , College of Human Ecology, Cornell University, New York, NY
Community-based after-school programs provide an important venue for promoting after-school physical activity (PA) among adolescents but are more effective for engaging boys than girls. Recent efforts to increase gender-equity in PA have highlighted the importance of creating a physical and psychosocial space for girls in male-dominated arenas, such as gyms. Understanding perceptions and practices of both program providers and adolescent girls for girls' PA engagement within these spaces can help facilitate gender-equity initiatives. Drawing from focus groups (n=3) and semi-structured interviews (n=6) conducted with urban adolescent females and indepth interviews conducted with after-school program providers (n=10), this presentation compares providers' perceptions of the PA-related attitudes, behaviors, strengths, and barriers of female adolescents who participate in their programs with perceptions and experiences reported by urban girls themselves. Gendered preferences of girls were notable in provider reports, with girls described as enjoying dance, cheerleading and jump rope. Providers also perceived girls as preferring to watch and sit on the sidelines, to have issues around body image and appearance that decreased their motivation to be physically active, and to have lower skill levels than boys. Girls endorsed preferences for more individually-focused activities (dance, double-dutch, walking) and problematized more traditional sport activities in terms of gendered interactions with boys. Girls also experienced enjoyment of PA through a continuum of skill-level, such as embracing low skill when interacting with similar peers to share experiences of “messing up,” which was not evident in provider accounts of girls' experiences. Implications for PA promotion strategies will be discussed.

Learning Objectives:
At the conclusion of this presentation participants will be able to 1) describe attitudes and experiences of urban adolescent females with regard to PA, 2) describe after-school program provider perceptions of adolescent girls’ PA experiences, and 3) identify critical issues in designing gender-equity initiatives for adolescent PA

Keywords: Gender, Physical Activity

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have a doctorate in developmental psychology and have been conducting research on adolescent health for 20 years
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.