The relationship between hazing and team cohesion.
Due to a number of social and other factors, hazing in sport is no longer deemed to be acceptable behavior (Johnson & Hohnan, 2004). Indeed, 44 states currently have laws on the books designed to curtail hazing with specific penalties for hazing and for failing to report hazing (www.stophazing.org/laws.html). Enforcement of anti-hazing laws has increased due to a rash of hazing related negative outcomes including serious injury and death as well as increased institutional liability for hazing related claims (MacLachlan, 2000). For example, the University of Vermont cancelled their team's ice hockey season in 2000 due to a hazing incident. Other sport hazing violations have led to fines, expulsion, withholding of diplomas, and prison terms (Crow & Rosner, 2002). Given the strong anti-hazing sentiment, legislation, and enforcement, the question can be raised, has hazing been eliminated or does hazing in sport still occur?
The difficulty in asking about illegal behaviors in general and hazing in particular is that people are cautious reporting their association with these activities. For example Hoover (1999) found that only 12% of the 61,258 athletes surveyed reported being hazed. However, when asked about involvement with specific activities and not hazing per se, 80% reported being subjected to one or more typical hazing behaviors as part of their team initiations.
One way of assessing the prevalence of hazing in sport is to look to the news media. Although it is likely that the media under report hazing due to secrecy and other issues, the incidents of hazing (if any) that are reported in the media are often those that are the most highly visible (Nuwer, 2006).
A LexisNexis search of over 18,000 news-related sources, including newspapers, journals, wire services, and transcripts of TV broadcasts was conducted for the keyword "hazing" within sports news stories for the calendar year ending January 7, 2004. A total of 154 articles were located, 150 of which described hazing in sport. These articles described 62 separate incidents of hazing from a variety of sports (see Table 1).
The types of hazing that were reported in these articles varied in tone from mild, light-hearted stories (e.g., embarrassing professional athletes by making them wear odd clothes) to reports of severe and dangerous incidents (e.g., charges being filed for sexual assault). The following examples provide a sense of the range and severity of hazing activities.
One article described an investigation of an assault by four soccer players, aged 13 to 17, on one of their teammates who refused to submit to hazing at a preseason practice. The player who refused to be hazed was hospitalized for his injuries (Sandoval, 2002, September 6). Another soccer-related incident was reported concerning a high school freshman who was taped to a goalpost and then had soccer balls kicked at him (Belz, 2003, October 1). Quarterback Patrick Ramsey was also taped to a goalpost when he reached the professional level with the Washington Redskins, but had a bucket of ice dumped on his head (Redskins veterans initiate Ramsey, 2002, August 9). He stated, "You almost consider it an honor. You've grown up seeing this happen to rookies, and now it's your turn" (p. 3-D). A high school freshman wrestler reported he was subjected to beatings by his teammates (Bondy, 2004, January 5). These "red belly" spankings were reportedly encouraged by the coach as a way to administer discipline and attitude adjustment. Another report described how rookies on the Denver Broncos had maple syrup and flour poured on them while they were sleeping (Schetter, 2003, July 31). Rookie players also typically carried helmets and equipment for the veterans. Ori the Colorado Rockies, rookie players were forced to wear clown shoes, platform shoes, stretch t-shirts that exposed their midriffs, and adult diapers in an effort to embarrass them, "all in fun" (Renck, 2002, September 27). One of the worst reports of hazing involved a Methodist College football player who accused his teammates of beating and sodomizing him (Football player, 2002, December 14). Teammates pinned him to a locker room floor, stripped him, wrote on his buttocks with a marker, and then sodomized him with the marker. The hazers were charged with second-degree sexual offense.
Given the strong legal deterrents to hazing now in place, one may ask, "why does hazing in sport continue?" A number of answers to that question have been provided in the popular press, including the suggestion that hazing is part of team tradition and is actually a team bonding experience (Hoffer, 1999; Weir, 2003; Wertheim, 2003). Hazing has further been described as promoting team cohesion, increasing social attraction to the team and its members, and enhancing the ability of teams to work together effectively to attain team goals (Campo, Poulos, & Sipple, 2005; Carron, 1982; Keating et al., 2005; StopHazing.org, 2006; Winslow, 1999). There are really two separate assertions being made in this argument. The first is that hazing promotes team cohesiveness, and the second is that team cohesiveness enhances team performance. There is an ample body of evidence supporting the second proposition (Carron, et al, 2002; Bray & Whaley, 2001; Kozub & McDonnell, 2000). In a meta-analysis of 46 studies, Carton, et al. (2002) found a moderate to large effect size showing a positive relationship between team cohesiveness and performance. They recommended team building focused on both task and social cohesiveness to promote team performance. However, there appears to be little, if any research specifically focused on the link between hazing and team cohesiveness.
A search of the PsychInfo data base found no articles using the keywords "group cohesion," "hazing," "team," and "sports." One study (Turman, 2003) examined the link between coaches' behaviors and team cohesiveness, finding that negative behaviors (creating inequity, embarrassing players, and using ridicule) reduced team cohesiveness, while positive coach behaviors promoted team cohesiveness. It would be risky, however, to generalize from this finding to the relationship between hazing conducted by senior team members and the development of team cohesiveness.
Therefore, the purpose of this research was to empirically assess the validity of the claim that hazing serves to enhance team cohesion. That is, to answer the question, "Does an effortful, painful, or humiliating experience inflicted by more senior members of a team increase new members' attraction to the team?" Two theoretical perspectives appear to be relevant to this question, group identity and Festinger's (1957) theory of cognitive dissonance.
Group identity, group membership, and ingroup/outgroup relationships are fundamental aspects of human social behavior. Being a member of an ingroup confers a wide range of benefits on an individual, including survival, protection from enemies, status, and access to group resources. Being a member of a group also requires individuals to pay certain costs, such as time, money, being subjected to social pressures, and expending energy to further group goals (Brinthaupt, Moreland, & Levine, 1991). Attraction to group membership, cohesiveness, is a function of the balance between the costs and the benefits of membership (Thibaut & Kelley, 1959).
When considering hazing and attraction to a sport team group, it would seem that hazing increases the costs of membership without a commensurate increase in benefits. This is so because in most instances of sport hazing, the hazees (athletes) are already members of the team. The hazing is simply an added cost of team membership. Even if the hazing costs are considered in the decision of whether or not to join the team, increased costs of group membership would not be expected to increase attraction to group membership. Thus, from the group identity perspective, hazing does not appear to be an effective way of increasing attraction to the group.
Early research generated by Festinger's (1957) theory of cognitive dissonance (Aronson & Mills, 1959; Gerard & Mathewson, 1966) also addressed the effect of effortful initiations on attraction to the group. From a dissonance theory perspective, the effort entailed in a severe initiation, in order to join the group, must be justified by the rewards of group membership. If a great deal of effort has been expended in order to gain membership, a low level of reward would be dissonant with cognitions about the effort. Aronson and Mills (1959) and Gerard and Mathewson (1966) arranged for participants to complete embarrassing or effortful or painful tasks in order to join a discussion group. Upon gaining membership, the participants listened to a sample of the group's interaction. Rather than the fascinating discussion of a highly relevant topic that was implied by the name of the group, they heard a dull, boring, halting, and inarticulate exchange between group members. The low rewards of group membership were then dissonant with the high costs entailed in the initiation. Participants reduced the aversive dissonance by enhancing their perceptions of the attractiveness of the group. Other participants who experienced an easy or trivial initiation were allowed to listen to the same boring discussion. A comparison of the evaluation of the group discussion by the two groups showed that those who had undergone the severe initiation rated the discussion group as significantly more attractive.
These results do demonstrate a positive effect of a severe initiation on the attractiveness of group membership, but there are at least three differences between these experiments and the commonly practiced forms of hazing on sport teams. First, the initiation tasks were imposed by the experimenters, not by the members of the discussion group. In contrast, most hazing in sport is done by more senior team members. Second, the initiation tasks were imposed to earn group membership, rather than being imposed after membership has been granted, as is the case in most sport hazing. Finally, in these experiments, group membership was objectively unattractive and unrewarding. In contrast, team membership in a sport setting is typically highly valued by the new members. It appears then, that sport hazing, as usually practiced, would not be expected to induce cognitive dissonance, but rather would simply increase the costs of membership without a commensurate increase in the rewards of membership. Because the embarrassment, effort, and pain are inflicted by the senior team members, the most likely outcome is reduced attraction to those individuals, and consequently, to the team as whole.
Clearly, the two conceptual perspectives described above do not exhaust the set of concepts that have been applied to explain the effects of maltreatment on those who receive it (Keating et al, 2005). However, the conditions under which hazing occurs on sport teams, as we have outlined them, reduce the applicability of such mechanisms as "the Stockholm sydrome" (West, 1993). Admittedly, other psychological dependent variables may be affected by mal-treatment, both on sport teams and in other settings. However, the focus of this research is limited to the effects of hazing on team cohesiveness, as operationally defined by the measures used.
Neither of the relevant conceptual analyses presented here supports a prediction that hazing will lead to increased team cohesion, but the empirical question remains; does hazing enhance team cohesion? The study presented in this article was designed to provide evidence relevant to that question.
One-hundred and sixty-seven athletes (66 female and 98 male; 3 did not report their gender) from six colleges and universities across the United States were recruited for the study. Participants were members of basketball (26%, n = 44), gymnastics (26%, n = 43), track and field (22%, n = 36), ice hockey (10%, n = 17), and swimming and diving (16%, n = 27) teams. Thirty-five percent of the sample (n = 59) were freshmen, 31% (n = 52) were sophomores, 23% (n = 39) were juniors, 7% (n = 12) were seniors, and 2% (n = 3) were 5th year or graduate students (3 students did not indicate their year in school). The majority of the sample was White (89%, n = 148), with 3% African American (n = 5), 2% Asian (n = 4), 2% Hispanic (n = 3), and 3% other (n = 5) (2 students did not provide race/ethnicity information). The majority of the participants reported that they were not a member of a fraternity or sorority (93%, n = 156). Seventy-six percent of the sample (n = 127) reported living on campus and 24% (n = 40) reported living off-campus. Sixty-four percent (n = 106) attended public institutions and 37% (n = 61) attended private institutions. Thirty-five percent came from urban schools (n =59), 38% (n = 63) came from suburban schools, and 27% (n =45) came from rural schools.
Group Environment Questionnaire (GEQ). A modified version of the GEQ (Widmeyer, Brawley, & Carron, 1985) was used to assess four components of team cohesion: group integration task (GIT; e.g., We'll all take responsibility for any loss or poor performance by our team), group integration social (GIS; e.g., Our team would like to spend time together in the off-season), attraction to the group task (ATGT; e.g., I like this team's style of play), and attraction to the group social (ATGS; e.g., Some of my best friends are on this team). Participants rated their agreement with items on 9-point scales anchored by 1 ("strongly disagree") and 9 ("strongly agree"). Adequate reliability and validity have been demonstrated for the GEQ (Brawley, Carron, & Widmeyer, 1987; Li & Harmer, 1996). Coefficient alphas for the four subscales ranged from .57 to .70 for this sample.
Team Initiation Questionnaire (TIQ). The TIQ (Hoover, 1999) was used to assess team initiation activities including: acceptable behaviors, questionable behaviors, alcohol-related behaviors, and unacceptable behaviors. Respondents were presented with 24 activities and for each activity were asked whether they Did it or saw it, Heard about it or suspected it, or Not done, seen, or heard about it. For those activities that they had done or heard about, students were asked to indicate whether the activity was A tradition or requirement, Appropriate, Inappropriate, and Done when drinking alcohol. Students were instructed to check all of these options that applied to the behavior.
Social Desirability Questionnaire. Socially desirable response biases were measured using the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability scale (MCSD; Crowne and Marlowe, 1960). The reliability and validity of this measure are well established.
Demographic Questionnaire. Participants were asked to indicate their age, gender, year in school, race/ethnicity, location of campus housing (on or off campus), campus type (public or private), involvement in the Greek system (i.e., fraternities and sororities), location of campus (urban, suburban, or rural), and sport team on which they participated.
Athletes who gave their informed consent to participate in this research were given a packet of questionnaires in a counterbalanced order. All participants completed the demographic questionnaire, GEQ, TIQ, and social desirability questionnaires.
Responses on the TIQ were analyzed to determine which activities were considered appropriate and which were considered inappropriate. Only responses of those participants who indicated that they did or saw an activity, or heard about or suspected an activity, were included in this analysis. Those activities that were categorized by the majority of respondents as inappropriate were designated as hazing (inappropriate team building behaviors) and those that were categorized by the majority as appropriate were designated as appropriate team building behaviors. Eleven activities were categorized as hazing and the other 13 activities were categorized as appropriate team building behaviors. The activities categorized as hazing and as appropriate behavior were grouped into subcategories, as shown in Table 2. Hazing consists of being the passive victim of physical or psychological abuse, being coerced into self-abuse, or being coerced to abuse others. Acceptable team building included required skill development or assessment, being coerced to engage in deviant behavior, required team socialization activities, and required positive behaviors. Coerced deviant behaviors under acceptable team building included "Tattooing, piercing, head shaving, or branding" and "Engaging in or simulating sex acts." These activities may appear unacceptable to many segments of our society, and they were intended to be perceived as questionable or unacceptable in the original Hoover (1999) study, but they were rated as acceptable by the participants in this study.
To examine how team building behaviors related to team cohesion, the number of inappropriate activities done or seen by each participant were summed to create a Hazing Index and the number of appropriate behaviors done or seen was summed to create an Appropriate Team Building Activity Index. The means and standard deviations for these indices are reported in Table 3.
The Hazing Index and the Appropriate Team Building Activity Index were correlated with the four subscales of the GEQ (see Table 3). Three significant correlations were found. The Appropriate Team Building Activity Index was positively correlated with the ATGS subscale of the GEQ, indicting the more appropriate activities the participants did or saw, the more positive feelings they had toward the group. The Hazing Index was significantly negatively correlated with the ATGT subscale and the GIT subscales of the GEQ indicating that the more hazing activities the participants did or saw, the less they were attracted to the group's task and the less bonding and closeness they felt about the group's task. Separate correlations were run for males and females, and there were no significant gender differences in the magnitude of any of the correlations (all ps >.l0). To investigate the effect of social desirability on these relationships, the above correlations were recalculated as partial correlations, controlling for MCSD scores. The correlations did not change significantly.
The pattern of correlations shown in Table 3 suggests that hazing was negatively related to task cohesiveness, whereas appropriate team building was positively related to social cohesiveness. To explore this possibility two composite indices were constructed. A Task Cohesiveness Index was constructed by summing ATGT and GIT scores. A Social Cohesiveness Index was constructed by summing ATGS and GIS. The conceptual and empirical justification for combining subscales of the GEQ in this manner may be found in the article describing the development of the instrument (Carton, Widmeyer &Brawley, 1985). The Hazing Index was negatively related to the Task Cohesiveness Index (r = -.22, p < .005), but not to the Social Cohesiveness Index (r = .07, p = .40). The Appropriate Team Building Activity Index was positively related to the Social Cohesiveness Index (r = .16, p < .05). but not to the Task Cohesiveness Index (r = -.06, p = .48).
To explore the relationship of both appropriate team building and hazing with overall cohesiveness, two additional composite indices were constructed. An Overall Team Building Index was constructed by subtracting the Hazing Index from the Appropriate Team Building Activity Index to reflect the relative balance of hazing and team building activities experienced by the participant. Higher scores on the Overall Team Building Index indicate more team building than hazing, whereas lower or negative scores indicate more hazing than team building. An Overall Group Cohesiveness Index was constructed by summing the four subscales of the GEQ (Carron, Widmeyer & Brawley, 1985). Overall Team Building was significantly positively related to Overall Group Cohesiveness (r = .17, p = .03), whereas neither the Hazing Index (r = -.08, p = .34) nor the Appropriate Team Building Activity Index (r = .07, p = .41) were related to the Overall Group Cohesiveness Index.
Hazing continues to be as issue affecting sport participants. Although some of the hazing behaviors shown in Table 2 (e.g., kidnapped or transported and abandoned) were reported only rarely, others were reported to have occurred quite frequently (e.g., participating in a drinking contest). Fortunately, many of the acceptable team building behaviors were the ones most widely reported (e.g., dressing up for team functions, keeping a specific grade point average). Thus, hazing is not confined to the highly negative events that are reported in the mass media and are an aspect of sport that deserves both scientific and regulatory scrutiny.
Arguments that justify hazing because it increases team cohesion are not supported by the data and analyses reported in this study. Hazing, as defined by the unacceptable behaviors shown in Table 2, was negatively correlated with task attraction and integration, and is unrelated to social attraction and integration. In contrast, appropriate team building activities are related to higher levels of social attraction and integration. It should be noted that some of the coerced deviant behaviors rated as acceptable team building behaviors by the participants in this study may appear to be unacceptable to a large segment of contemporary American society (Table 2). It is beyond the scope of this research to attempt to delineate the norms that define acceptable behavior in contemporary undergraduate culture. However, other researchers (Borsari & Carey, 1999; Larimer, Irvine, Kilmer, & Marlatt, 1997) have begun to do so and have found that excessive alcohol use and other risky behaviors are more likely to be accepted or tolerated by college undergraduates. Additionally, the behaviors included in the category, "Coerced deviant behaviors," may be perceived as less personally demeaning than those in the category, "Coerced self-abuse or degradation" and, therefore, more acceptable as part of team building. Clearly, more research is needed to identify the specific activities used in hazing and team building, and to define the norms that are applied in making judgments of acceptability.
The relationships among hazing, team building, and cohesion are even clearer when it is considered the Hazing Index and the Appropriate Team Building Activity Index were correlated with the Task Cohesiveness Index and the Social Cohesiveness Index. Hazing was associated with lower levels of task cohesiveness, and was unrelated to social cohesiveness. Appropriate team building activity was associated with higher levels of social cohesiveness and was unrelated to task cohesiveness. As new members of a team, the initiates must develop bonds of attraction with older team members. Acceptable team building activities (as determined empirically in this study) appear to accomplish that. It should be noted that the correlations in this study between hazing and team cohesions were quite small, accounting for less than 6% of the variance between the variables. Future researchers may want to include other factors, such as the frequency and intensity of hazing activities and the effects of the role of hazer compared to hazee to further explore this relationship.
It is interesting to note that task cohesiveness was not correlated with appropriate team building, even though appropriate team building activities were associated with higher levels of social cohesiveness. On the other hand, hazing may act to reduce task attraction and prevent task integration with the team. This pattern of results implies that task cohesiveness may develop from a different set of experiences than those included in appropriate team building activities. If we assume that task attraction is initially high for these athletes (after all, this is the sport they have chosen and in which they have competed well enough to become a member of an intercollegiate team), then team building that does not include specific task-related elements might be expected to have little impact on task cohesiveness, even though social cohesiveness may be enhanced. Indeed, only two of the team building behaviors shown in Table 2 are sport-specific (i.e., attending pre-season practice; being tested for skill, endurance, or performance in a sport). It may be that task cohesiveness develops primarily from shared positive experiences performing the team task in practice and competition. Although competition almost always includes the risk of losing, coaches could structure practices to foster the development of task cohesiveness more effectively.
Finally, the Overall Team Building index, reflecting the relative balance of hazing and acceptable team building, was positively related to the Overall Group Cohesiveness Index, showing that the less hazing and the more acceptable team building that athletes experienced, the higher their level of overall attraction and integration. Thus, there is no empirical support for the practice of hazing in this study. These results are congruent with earlier research (Lodewijkx & Syroit, 1997; 2001) that has also found no support for the efficacy of severe initiations in enhancing group attractiveness in natural settings not related to sports.
One limitation of this study was that individual athletes rather than teams were studied. This approach allowed inferences to be made across sports and institutions. Future researchers might include assessment of large teams at a single institution to evaluate differences in hazing and cohesion within a particular setting. Consideration might also be given to assessing teams within the same sport but at different institutions. However, a large sample would be needed to allow inferences about the effects of hazing practices to be discernable against the background of differences between institutions.
Hazing exposes athletes to physical and psychological risks, and is associated with reduced rather than greater team cohesiveness. Why, then, does hazing remain popular as a team building tactic? And how can hazing be stopped? Research focused on the attitudes and beliefs of athletes, coaches, and the administrators of collegiate sports programs may help identify strategies for reducing hazing. Belief in the efficacy of hazing can be addressed by the dissemination of evidence such as that reported in this article. Tolerant attitudes about hazing practices on the part of coaches and administrators may change as awareness of the dangers continues to increase. Clear anti-hazing policies and vigorous enforcement may deter team veterans from hazing "just because they were hazed." Effective, research-based team building programs can be designed to replace hazing. These and other tactics should be explored by researchers and, when sufficiently well-supported by data, they should implemented by teams and institutions
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Judy L. Van Raalte and Allen E. Cornelius
Darwyn E. Linder
Arizona State University
Britton W. Brewer
Address Correspondence To: Judy L. Van Raalte, Center for Performance Enhancement and Applied Research, Department of Psychology, Springfield College, Springfield, MA 01109. Phone: (413) 748-3388, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Table 1. Number of Hazing Incidents from Lexis Nexis Search Sport Auto Racing 1 Baseball 3 Basketball 16 Football 33 Horse Racing 1 Lacrosse 1 Powder Puff Football 1 (a) Soccer 4 Track & Field 1 W restling 1 Total 62 (a) Hazing involving fern ales Table 2. Team Initiation Questionnaire Behaviors Categorized as Unacceptable or Acceptable and the Number and Percent of Respondents Who Reported Doing or Seeing the Behavior and Who Reported Hearing About or Suspecting the Behavior Number and Number and (%) who (%) who reported reported doing or hearing seeing it about or suspected it Unacceptable team building behaviors Passive victim of abuse * Kidnapped or transported and abandoned 14 (9%) 20 (12%) Yelled, cursed, or sworn at 90 (55%) 27 (17%) Paddled, whipped, beaten, kicked, or beating up others 23 (14%) 25 (15%) Tied up, taped, or confined in small places 28 (17%) 17 (11%) Coerced self-abuse or degradation * Consuming extremely hot or disgusting concoctions 27 (16%) 23 (14%) Participating in a drinking contest 85 (53%) 34 (21%) Depriving oneself of food, sleep, or hygiene 31 (l9%) 30 (18%) Acting as personal servant to other players off the field, court 20 (12%) 28 (17%) Coerced abuse of others * Associating with only specific people, not others 33 (20%) 45 (27%) Making prank phone calls or harassing others 51 (31%) 21 (13%) Destroying or stealing property 33 (20%) 26 (16%) Acceptable team building behaviors Skill development or assessment* Attending pre-season practice 138 (91%) 5 (3%) Tested for skill, endurance, or performance in a sport 120 (76%) 11 (7%) Taking an oath or signing a contract of standards 82 (51%) 22 (14%) Participating in a calisthenics contest not related to sport 39 (24%) 23 (14%) Completing a ropes course or team trip 65 (40%) 21 (13%) Coerced deviant behaviors * Tattooing, piercing, head shaving, or branding 58 (36%) 27 (17%) Wearing embarrassing clothing 67 (41%) 29 (18%) Engaging in or simulating sex acts 45 (28%) 19 (12%) Consuming alcohol during recruitment visits 68 (43%) 34 (21%) Team socialization activities * Attending a skit night or team roast 67 (41%) 18 (11%) Dressing up for team functions (other than uniforms) 113 (70%) 16 (10%) Required positive behaviors * Keeping a specific grade point average 112 (70%) 25 (16%) Doing volunteer community service 87 (54%) 31 (19%) * Subcategories of team building behaviors developed by the authors, based on a rational analysis. Table 3. Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations Between Hazing Indices and GEQ Subscale Scores ATGS ATGT M (SD) 35.31 (8.14) 28.36 (6.11) .05 -.18 * Hazing Index 2.60 (2.62) [.01] [-.15] .16 * -.04 Appropriate Index 6.39 (3.13) [.14] [-.04] GIT GIS 25.78 (5.83) 26.58 (5.38) -.23 ** .08 Hazing Index [-.20] [-.00] -.06 .11 Appropriate Index [-.04] [.07] Note. Correlations in brackets  are the partial correlations controlling for MCSD scores. Partial correlations are not significantly different from zero order correlations. * p <.05, ** p <.01