Src-family kinases (SFKs) are non-receptor protein-tyrosine kinases involved in a variety of signaling pathways in virtually every cell type. The SFKs share a common negative regulatory mechanism that involves intramolecular interactions of the SH3 domain with the PPII helix formed by the SH2-kinase linker as well as the SH2 domain with a conserved phosphotyrosine residue in the C-terminal tail. Growing evidence suggests that individual SFKs may exhibit distinct activation mechanisms dictated by the relative strengths of these intramolecular interactions. To elucidate the role of the SH3:linker interaction in the regulation of individual SFKs, we used a synthetic SH3 domain-binding peptide (VSL12) to probe the sensitivity of downregulated c-Src, Hck, Lyn and Fyn to SH3-based activation in a kinetic kinase assay. All four SFKs responded to VSL12 binding with enhanced kinase activity, demonstrating a conserved role for SH3:linker interaction in the control of catalytic function. However, the sensitivity and extent of SH3-based activation varied over a wide range. In addition, autophosphorylation of the activation loops of c-Src and Hck did not override regulatory control by SH3:linker displacement, demonstrating that these modes of activation are independent. Our results show that despite the similarity of their downregulated conformations, individual Src-family members show diverse responses to activation by domain displacement which may reflect their adaptation to specific signaling environments in vivo.