Student Research

What's there to Cheer About?: How Cheerleading Affects Girls of Color's Self-Identity

While research on gender and sports/physical activities is prevalent, there are limited studies on how cheerleading plays a part in the gender socialization of young girls. This research will focus and compare two adolescent cheerleading teams, one being a predominantly Black/African American cheer team and the other being a predominantly white/ multi-racial cheerleading team; and how their interactions with their peers impact how they express their confidence, self-esteem and ethnic-identity. The methodology for this study is field observations and participant observation. I frame my analysis using the social learning theory and symbolic interaction paradigms that observe how cheerleaders socially interact with each other and promotes girl collectivism. Throughout my observations I have found that race, class and their environment play a significant role on how the cheerleaders interpret their self-esteem, confidence and ethnic identity. Through interactions and observations with the parents as well as the cheerleaders, I have found that cheerleading is helping the girls on the predominantly Black/African American cheer team build their ethnic-identity by the choreography from the cheers and the interactions with other cheerleaders of the same race/ethnic background. Now those girls look to be a lot more social, and are more involved by standing in the front line and interacting with the other cheerleaders. I will also be conducting interviews and surveys with my observations to measure and conclude how cheerleading has made an impact on a lot of the cheerleaders' ethnic-identity, self-esteem and confidence.

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