"If I Could Be Like Mike": Professional Athletes as American Role Models

Lisa Marie DeWitt, The College of Wooster


This study examines how role models are functional to American society. The study will distinguish among the types of role models chosen from a sample (n=77) of fifth and sixth graders from Wooster, Ohio who represent a population of small-town American children. The sample completed an original questionnaire formed specifically for this study; the questionnaire dealt with three areas of study: role models chosen, value transmission, and informative methods. Using the theories of Talcott Parsons, Albert Bandura, and Robin Williams, the study attempts to analyze the values which these role models transmit to the children who idolize them. Also, with statistical analysis of chisquare and t-tests, it looks at the difference in value transmission by athlete role models versus non-athletes. Gender of the subjects was also taken into account when assessing the values. Finally, the study determines what methods children use to gain information on their role models. Results showed that family members are the most important role models, followed by athletes. Most children chose same-sex role models. The values transmitted by role models varied by both occupation of the role model and sex of the respondent. Media plays a large part in providing children with information about their role models, but interpersonal communication is also a factor. A possible follow-up study should examine the motive behind role model choices and the effects of these relationships on the children.


© Copyright 1999 Lisa Marie DeWitt