‘Like a soccer camp for boys’: A qualitative exploration of gendered activity patterns in children’s self-organized play during school recess

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Boys are more physically active than girls and the greatest gender difference in children’s physical activity is found in institutional settings such as school recess. However, research on gender relations, performances and practices that maintain gendered differences in physical activity during recess is still limited. Drawing on a qualitative dataset and a social constructivist gender view, the aim of this study was to investigate how construction of gendered activity patterns and social positions in the schoolyard lead to gendered practices in self-organized play during recess. At 17 Danish schools a total of 460 minutes of recess were observed and 17 go-along group interviews (one at each school), including in total 111 fourth graders (58 girls), were conducted. We found six gender typologies with varying behaviours, needs and power relations. The majority of children were prejudiced in their play, reinforcing gender binarism with boys being more physically active than girls. However, we also found groups such as soccer-playing girls and sedentary computer gaming boys who defied the gender stereotypes. These groups felt limited in their activities because of a hierarchy where not being skilled and sporty implied a lesser status in the hegemonic masculinity and even exclusion from play. More detailed research into what is required for particularly the least active groups is needed to successfully increase both the girls’ and overall physical activity levels.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Physical Education Review
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)275-291
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015

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