Girls Do Not Sweat: the Development of Gender Stereotypes in Physical Education in Primary School


Despite efforts towards gender equality, from an early age, girls practice sport less than boys. Explaining this is paramount to psychology. Stereotypes about gender-appropriate behaviour play a key role in doing physical-sports activity. Based on the expectancy-value model, this study describes the gender beliefs of boys/girls regarding physical education. A total of 30 children (half-boys, half-girls) that were 4th- and 5th-year pupils (8–10 years) at two Colombian schools were interviewed using a semi-structured script focusing on open-ended questions. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and analysed. The results suggest gender differences in boys/girls already in the 4th year with respect to their abilities and the value they put on physical education based on a wide range of gender stereotypes. Specifically, boys/girls see football as a men’s sport, while skating, handball and volleyball are perceived as women’s sports. Furthermore, boys/girls have a dominant gender narrative that makes femininity subordinate to masculinity, thereby encouraging binary gender beliefs and practices. These stereotypes are reflected in their choice of activities and in how they use the school facilities, educing in this way the opportunities of both boys/girls as far as physical-sports activity are concerned. We discuss the findings emphasizing their relation to education and sociocultural influences. The conclusions suggest the need to make boys and girls more aware about gender equality, make changes to the activities and to how the physical spaces are used and provide equal teaching and learning experiences to reduce a divide still present in physical-sports education.

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Data Availability

The datasets of this study are not available in public repositories but can be provided upon reasonable request.


  1. 1.

    However, another perspective rises that an individual can develop a continuum of traits and behaviours of both genders, identified as psychological androgynous (Bem 1974; Vafaei et al. 2014).


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We are grateful to the students, parents and teachers who participated in this project. We would like to thank N. Alessandroni for his helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper. We also thank the support of the Universidad Tecnológica de Bolívar (Colombia).


This research was supported by a Doctoral Grant from Gobernación de Bolívar (Colombia) and Fundación Centro de Estudios Interdisciplinarios Básicos y Aplicados (CEIBA), awarded to the first author.

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CC, AM and CB designed the study. CC collected the data. CC performed the data analysis. CC, AM and CB wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Carolina Cárcamo.

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The research ethics committee of Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain) has reported favourably on this research under the code CEI-68-1203 (January 26, 2016).

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The study was carried out by professionals that are aware of the ethical standards that apply to research involving human participants. The interviewees and their families were given details about the team carrying out the research and informed of the purposes of the study, and they agreed to participate before starting to answer the interview. No personal information that could allow to identify the participants was stored by the research team and the data was used only for research purposes.

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Cárcamo, C., Moreno, A. & del Barrio, C. Girls Do Not Sweat: the Development of Gender Stereotypes in Physical Education in Primary School. Hu Arenas (2020).

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  • Gender differences
  • Physical education and sport
  • Masculinity and femininity
  • Development of gender stereotypes
  • Expectancy-value theory