Girlhood, Sport and Physical Activity: The Construction of Young Femininities in the Transition to Secondary School

Clark, Sheryl. 2010. Girlhood, Sport and Physical Activity: The Construction of Young Femininities in the Transition to Secondary School. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis deals with issues of sport, gender and identity within schooling. It focuses on six physically active girls as they made the transition to secondary schools in London and considers the social and educational contexts that framed their involvement in physical activity and sport over this period.
The research involved in-depth interviews with the girls, and their parents, teachers and friends, over a period of four years, beginning when the girls were in Year 5 and finishing when the girls were aged 13 and in Year 8. Over this period I also carried out ongoing observations at physical education lessons, after-school sports activities and a local youth running group.
The analysis explores the social and emotional processes and identifications that made girls’ participation more or less sustainable over this period of time. It considers how girls who had once found immense pleasure and joy from physical activities came to feel disinvested in the PE curriculum, unsure of their physical abilities and unable to see sport as relevant in their bids towards academic or social success. I look in particular at the girls’ schooling contexts, their relationships with friends and peers, their parental and class aspirations and their access to outdoor space. The findings suggest that social class and privilege were particularly implicated in girls’ involvement in sport and that decisions around their participation were often made within the overriding context of an achievement-oriented education system.
I draw attention to the broader context of girls’ participation in sport and to the particular ways in which the girls’ gendered, classed and racialised identities mediated their participation. I suggest that girls’ contradictory positioning within dominant discourses of health, ability, sexuality and academic success held particular connotations for their participation, often making sport and physical activity difficult to access at the secondary school level.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Additional Information:

Supervisors: Carrie Paechter and Rosalyn George

The research was supported through funding from the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (752-2006-0654) and from the Overseas Research Student Awards (ORSAS).

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies


20 January 2010

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

17 Feb 2012 13:38

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 15:19


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