Common stereotypes in contemporary culture often depict certain social behaviors as related to or a function of gender. Typically, males are presented as aggressive and outspoken, while women are emphatic with a great emotional presence. In this article, we study networks in boys’ and girls’ sport groups. The primary purpose is not to confirm or debunk popular gender-assertions, but to incorporate context and take into account the environment where boys and girls do sports. Today, more men and women are involved in sports than ever, and understanding the social networks in boys’ and girls’ sport groups are important both for sport politics and for the field of gender studies in the social sciences. Thus, the research question we ask in this article is what are the differences between boys’ and girls’ social networks in organized sports?
Studies of the differences between boys’ and girls’ sporting involvement has been dominated by qualitative approaches and psychological constructs (e.g. bullying, friendship, motives, well-being, cohesion). This process has taken place in conjunction with theoretical developments in the more general scene of gender studies in the social sciences. Conversely, we know little about structure and how previous relevant studies and popular notations about gender could be of importance to the socio-structural properties of girls’ and boys’ sport groups. Motives for participation reveal that competition and display of physical abilities are important for boys, while girls emphasize sociality. If boys are more competitive than girls, if girls are more concerned than boys about social unity, and if girls and boys express aggression in different forms, what does it mean to the social networks in sports groups?
To figure out if network-structures of relevance is gender-dependent, we ask how networks look like inside and outside boys and girls sport groups? To answer this question, we compare network metrics (group level: density, centralization, clustering. Individual level: centrality) in boys’ and girls’ sport groups. Do the assertion about the aggressive male athlete and the social female athlete still hold true when we compare boys’-, girls’ team density-, centrality, -and centralization scores? Next, we control and compare for age-effects for the purpose to examine if gender-variations in network metrics change over time. Are ‘the gendered network’ most visible in early or late adolescence? Third, we control for type of sports. Is network gender-differences related to whether or not athletes do “sex-appropriate sports”? Are girl teams in masculine sports more structurally similar to boys than girl teams in sports that is assumed to be more suitable for females?
The study is based on a data set comprising surveys of 30 groups of athletes containing 350 individuals. Coaches from each group are also included in the study (with a distinct questionnaire). Groups are sampled according to sports, competitive level, geographical location, age and gender.