Personal Construct Theory and Parents’ Perceptions of Developing Girls Through Sport


Despite increased participation across all sporting contexts, many sports are still thought to be more or less appropriate for female athletes to engage with based on biologically or socially constructed characteristics (Plaza et al., 2017; Abadi & Gill, 2020). Further, the persistence of gender stereotypes continues to impact the participation levels of girls in sport; particularly in traditionally masculine sports (Tucker Center, 2018; Staurowsky, 2016). Given the influence parents can have in dictating their children’s participation in sport (Dorsch et al., 2020), the objective of the present study was to explore how parents perceive their daughters’ participation in traditionally boy-dominated sport. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight parents of daughters currently engaged in traditionally boy-dominated sports at a competitive level. A laddering interview technique—based on the personal construct theory—was used as a basis for the interview guide (Bourne & Jenkins, 2005). This technique allowed the interviewer to elicit participants’ higher-level constructs, revealing their overarching values more effectively. Three themes were constructed through the assessment of the interviews, these being that parents believe participation in non-traditional girls’ sport provides young female athletes with (a) the capability to identify gender inequality more easily, (b) opportunities to face unique challenges and shed the perceived limitations imposed upon girls, and (c) opportunities to express less stereotypically feminine traits and, therefore, to grow. These results suggest that parents of daughters who participate in traditionally boy-dominated sports perceive these sports to contribute to building several positive aspects of their daughters’ development.