Jen McGovern

Monmouth University
Gender Differences in a Youth Physical Activity Intervention
Gender Differences in a Youth Physical Activity Intervention
Gender differences in youth sport participation are much larger among children from low-income families and among ethnoracial minorities. In these communities, girls are also less likely than boys are to be physically active. These disparities contribute to the physical and mental health risks faced by low-income girls and women of color. One way to combat these risks is through afterschool physical education programming; however, both researchers and practitioners often overlook the ways in which boys and girls experience these programs differently. This research used mixed methods to uncover gender differences in one afterschool community program. The program, located in an economically disadvantaged neighborhood, was designed around teaching motor skills and providing opportunities for sport and physical activity to fourth and fifth grade youth. There were no significant gender differences in physical activity levels, but focus group conversations revealed that children made sense of their experiences differently. Boys wanted to demonstrate new skills through competitive game play while girls placed more emphasis on personal growth and relationships. These results can help coaches and administrators design sport and physical education programs that meet girls’ unique needs and motivations.