The correlates and consequences of tomboyism: an exploration of gender-related characteristics, peer interactions, and psychosocial adjustment
The study of tomboys offers useful insights for the field of gender development. Tomboys have been the focus of several studies aimed at defining what a tomboy is (Bailey, Bechtold, & Berenbaum, 2002; Plumb & Cowan, 1984; Williams, Goodman, & Green, 1985) and what it means for children and adults who are tomboys (Morgan, 1998; Williams et al., 1985). These and further questions necessitate understanding the correlates and consequences for children exhibiting tomboy behaviors. This study aims to address these gaps in the literature as part of a longitudinal study assessing children's gendered attitudes, relationships, and beliefs. A group of 4th grade girls (N=98), were administered questionnaires asking them about their tomboy gender identity and related behaviors and beliefs. The first research question concerns how we identify tomboys through parent, teacher, and child self-report, and the application of groupings of tomboys as never, sometimes, and always tomboys. It was found that children who fall into different classifications of tomboyism differ on their similarity to own- and other-sex peers on a number of dimensions (e.g. similarity, peer preference, activity preference). Never tomboys had the most similarity and interest to own-sex peers, always tomboys, to other-sex peers, and sometimes tomboys exhibited the most flexibility with interest similar to both own- and other-sex peers. Peer-related adjustment consequences and experiences were considered for the different groups of tomboys, with always tomboys being the most efficacious with other-sex peers, never tomboys being the most efficacious with own-sex peers, and sometimes tomboys showing both own- and other-sex peer interactions and the least exclusion of any group.