In a number of societies around the world, there are established social rules on what constitutes acceptable masculine and feminine behavior, especially during childhood and preadolescence. Most boys learn to play aggressive games which allow them to show off their physical prowess. Most girls are encouraged to play with fashion dolls or other "girly girl" toys. When a girl chooses to reject the traditional feminine role and act more masculine, she is often referred to as a tomboy.
A tomboy is a young girl who may prefer to climb a tree or wrestle instead of playing with dolls or wearing dresses. She may behave in a more aggressive or self-assertive manner than her female friends or classmates. While her demeanor may be more boyish, however, a tomboy may still be aware of the societal norms she is appearing to reject. A tomboy often chooses to adopt a more masculine lifestyle as a form of preadolescent rebellion against the strict gender roles of her society.
There are some who believe tomboys are largely the products of a male-dominated family. A girl trying to fit in with her male siblings and dominant father may find it easier to adopt a more masculine lifestyle rather than risk ridicule for pursuing traditional feminine interests. A tomboy may also find it easier to fit in with male classmates, since female classmates can be more critical or jealous of other girls. A tomboy may have little to no romantic interest in boys during this time, but generally prefers their companionship over traditional "girly girls" who do not like to play more physical games.
There is always a concern over the current or future sexual orientation of a tomboy, in the same sense that an effeminate preadolescent male may choose to pursue a homosexual lifestyle later in life. Some tomboys may actually have lesbian leanings or consider themselves asexual, but many masculine-acting girls eventually develop heterosexual interests as they enter puberty. Many preadolescents remain in a state of sexual flux, meaning they may explore both feminine and masculine gender roles without permanently defining their own sexual identity. A young tomboy may become exceptionally feminine as she develops physically and emotionally during puberty.
Many parents may become concerned over a daughter's tomboyish behavior, but a number of child psychologists believe it should be considered more of a phase than anything else. Some children resist adapting traditional gender and sexual roles until they become mature enough to handle the responsibilities which accompany them. A tomboy may simply be enjoying the last vestiges of her childhood before taking on the more challenging role of an adolescent.