Volume 9

Female College Students’ Perceptions of Female or Gender Neutral Sports on Eating Disorders and Self-Esteem

Kim Baker and Angela Benway

Research suggests that many factors may contribute to disordered eating patterns among young female athletes. This study was designed to examine the perceived relationship between uniform types and disordered eating patterns as well as self-esteem levels among college athletes in order to determine whether uniform types and the gender of sports caused increased levels of eating disorders and lower levels of self-esteem in female athletes. A sample of 120 college women (91% Caucasian) was randomly presented with one of four scenarios describing a female college athlete competing in either a female specific or gender-neutral sport. The scenario athlete was described as wearing a tight or loose-fitting uniform. After reading the scenario, the students answered questions about the scenario character and completed several personality measures. It was hypothesized that results would show perceptions of higher rates of eating disordered symptoms and lower self-esteem for the scenario character were dependent on type of sport and uniform style designated for the character. It was also expected that self body images and self-esteem of participants would influence their perceptions of the scenario character. Analyses of data collected yielded partial support for the hypotheses. Implications for pressures on female athletes will be discussed.

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