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Applying social cognitive theory to predict hazing perpetration in university athletics.

Hoover (1999, p. 8) defined hazing as "any activity expected of someone joining a group that humiliates, degrades, abuses or endangers, regardless of the person's willingness to participate". In research focused on hazing prevalence in U.S. college athletics, Hoover (1999) found that 81% of college athletes reported being subjected to at least one "questionable" hazing act (e.g., dressing up in a costume) as rookies, 51% reported participating in alcohol-related initiation (e.g., chugging alcohol), and 21% reported engaging in an "unacceptable act" (e.g., simulating sexual activity). Similarly, Allan and Madden (2008) found 74% of U.S. varsity athletes experienced hazing when joining their university team including participating in binge drinking (47%), being verbally harassed (21%), and performing sex acts (16%). Comparable rates have been found in Canada: Hamilton, Scott, O'Sullivan and LaChapelle (2013) found 92% of athletes competing in Canadian university athletics reported being hazed as a rookie at some point in their career, including exposure to "questionable acts" (91% of athletes), alcohol-related initiations (72%), and "unacceptable acts" (42%).

The impact of hazing is notable as there have been cases of death, burns, cold exposure, acute alcohol intoxication, blood loss, blunt trauma, and sexual abuse reported in the media and documented through empirical study (Bunch, 2012; Fineout, 2012; Finkel, 2002; Nuwer, 1999, 2000, 2004; Srabstein, 2008). Beyond the physical ramifications of hazing, psychological consequences include suicide ideation, loneliness, embarrassment, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (Brackenridge, 1997; Cense, 2001; Konkol, 2009; Sussberg, 2003).

To date, the majority of hazing research has focused on the experiences of rookies/victims (Allan & Madden, 2008; Campo et al., 2005; Drout & Corsoro, 2003; Hoover, 1999). Through his ethnographic fieldwork, Clayton (2012) provided comprehensive insights into students' experiences of hazing, while touching on issues of hazing process, subordination, apprehension, bonding, and intrapersonal conflict. The prevalence, motivation, and impact of hazing victimization have become better understood in recent years, but much remains unclear. Specifically, why does hazing persist despite institutional efforts to curtail its practice and how can we account for individual differences in propensity to haze among student athletes?

Hazing experiences from the perspective of the hazing perpetrator have received far less research attention. Through qualitative inquiry, Waldron and Kowalski (2009) articulated descriptions of hazing from hazing perpetrators and provided initial insight into the individual reasons that veterans haze (e.g., fun, jealousy). Hoover and Pollard (2000) suggested that seeking revenge could be a more deep-seated hazing motivation and Bryshun (1997) recounted vivid descriptions of the hazing process among athletes. In the only known quantitative study to include reports from hazing perpetrators, Campo and colleagues (2005) found that 6.7% of university students described experiences as a hazing perpetrator. Self-defined hazing perpetrators were most likely to be members of Greek letter societies (23.3%) and varsity athletes (15.6%). It is worth noting, however, that rates of self-defined hazing perpetration are significantly lower than rates of researcher-defined hazing because researchers' definitions generally encompass a wider range of activities. One goal of the current study was to examine prevalence rates of hazing perpetration among Canadian university athletes.

Theoretical Understanding of Hazing Perpetration

Although prevalence and descriptive data provide insights into the rates and consequences of hazing, little work has been done in accounting for the factors that influence hazing perpetration. While a comprehensive theoretical model of hazing experiences has not been developed, three primary causal explanations for hazing have been offered and are briefly explored.

First, the discrepancy in status, role, and power between rookie and veteran athletes may enable hazing. This power hierarchy is imposed on rookies through the process of initiation enabling veterans to affirm their position of influence and privilege (Bryshun & Young, 1999). A second explanation (deviant over-conformity) posits that rookie athletes, especially those with a strong social approval orientation, make sacrifices and take risks to be accepted by a team, whereas veterans continue the traditions of the team to maintain social approval in the team network (Coakley, 2007; Waldron, Lynn, & Krane, 2011). Waldron and Krane (2005) have linked over-conformity to components of the sport ethic including making sacrifices for the team and striving for distinction. A third relevant explanation emerging from Cognitive Dissonance Theory (CDT) (Festinger, 1957) argues that rookie athletes are motivated to seek support and reassurance for their willingness to be subjected to hazing. Their response involves validating and justifying the process endured as important, thereby relieving any dissonance experienced and ultimately perpetuating support for hazing rituals (Hinkle, 2006). The use of rationalizations from those experiencing hazing has been further documented by Waldron and Kowalski (2009).

Although there is research support for each of these three explanations, none of these explanations provides a sufficiently comprehensive account of dispositional, cognitive, social, and environmental factors that likely influence acts of hazing. The research to date has focused primarily on the experience of hazing as a victim and researchers have effectively articulated the social functions of hazing (Holman, 2004; Johnson, 2011; Waldron & Kowalski, 2009). Lacking in the literature is an account for the individual hazer within the group context. Indeed little is known about which factors enable, allow, or motivate some individuals to carry out hazing behaviors to a greater degree than others, and some to abstain from hazing altogether. Indeed, the complexity of hazing perpetration at the individual level urgently needs a broader more inclusive theory. To that end, Bandura's (1986) Social Cognitive Theory was applied to account for hazing perpetration in the current study.

Social Cognitive Theory (SCT)

SCT has been widely applied to explain the behavior of both individuals and groups (Bandura, 1999; Hafez, 2006; Muman, Sharma & Lin, 2006; Van Zundert, Nijhof & Engels, 2009). Proponents of SCT argue that behavior is determined by the interaction of a triad of variables, including personal factors, environmental factors, and behavior (Bandura, 1986). In the present study, and consistent with SCT, personal factors were conceptualized as those factors residing within the individual while environmental factors were viewed as those external stimuli or contexts that influence the individual.

SCT proposes that personal, environmental and behavioral factors interact through the five basic human capabilities: symbolic, self-reflective, vicarious, forethought, and self-regulatory (Bandura, 1986). While the symbolic and self-reflective capabilities may be useful in understanding hazing perpetration, the current study drew more extensively on the vicarious, forethought and self-regulatory capabilities in accounting for hazing perpetration. The vicarious capability (modeling) allows individuals to learn about certain behaviors and their outcomes by observing others, rather than engaging in the behavior themselves (Bandura, 1986). According to Bandura (1986), modeling is a powerful means of transmitting values, attitudes and patterns of thought and behavior. Forethought represents an individual's capability to anticipate and plan his or her own behavior. Individuals in an environment where certain behaviors are rewarded (e.g., hazing) may purposefully engage in these activities to meet a need or attain a benefit such as acceptance. Finally, people have control over their actions, thoughts and feelings through the self-regulatory capability. After personal standards have been established, discrepancies between behavior and these standards result in evaluative self-reactions, which influence subsequent behaviors (Bandura, 1986). Self- regulation is of particular importance when considering hazing, as inflicting abuse, harm or embarrassment onto another may present moral dilemmas for the perpetrating athlete.

Personal Factors

Self-regulatory procedures, such as self-sanction and self-reward (Bandura, 2002) have a direct influence on behavior, including moral behavior. In spite of well-established moral self-standards, individuals may demonstrate inconsistencies in behaving in accordance with these standards. According to Bandura (1986), it is an individual's proclivity to activate and deactivate internal controls that lead to moral or immoral acts. The deactivation of moral self-standards is referred to as moral disengagement (Bandura, 1986).

Bandura outlined eight mechanisms by which individuals may disengage from their moral standards: moral justification, euphemistic labeling, advantageous comparison, displacement of responsibility, diffusion of responsibility, disregard and distortion of consequences, dehumanization, and attribution of blame. By engaging in these mechanisms individuals can escape moral responsibility for their injurious behaviour through processes of justification, shared responsibility, sanitization, and blame.

The construct of moral disengagement indirectly incorporates many previous findings related to the hazing experience and it appears that proneness for moral disengagement could be related to increased likelihood of hazing perpetration. Some preliminary support for this idea comes from recent research using vignettes, which has linked moral disengagement proneness to a reduced likelihood of intervening to prevent a hazing incident (McCreary, 2012). The current work extends these findings to hazing perpetration.

Another personal factor that may account for hazing perpetration is male versus female sex. In a nationwide U.S. study examining a range of university groups (including varsity athletics), men (61 %) were more likely than women (52%) to have experienced hazing as a part of joining their group (Allan & Madden, 2008). Keating and colleagues (2005) found that men were significantly more likely to have endured painful, socially deviant, and psychologically challenging initiations than were women. Men also report involvement in multiple hazing activities more often than do women (Hoover, 1999). Although comparisons between men and women have primarily been made in terms of rookie experiences, Campo and colleagues (2005) found that men (8.8%) were significantly more likely to be self-defined hazers than were women (5.4%).

Attitudes toward initiation may also be predictive of hazing behavior. Cokley and colleagues (2001) examined the relationship between attitudes toward initiation in college fraternities and a series of other variables. Members of U.S. fraternities and sororities were shown to have more positive beliefs about the purpose of pledging than non-members and were more likely to perpetrate hazing than non-members (Campo et al., 2005). McCreary (2012) also found that members of Greek Letter societies were more likely to have supportive attitudes toward hazing and were less likely to intervene to stop or prevent hazing. In his investigation of athletes experienced with hazing, Johnson (2011) found that many participants discussed the importance of hazing, indicating a belief that it served an important purpose in the unification of the group. The extent to which athletes believe that hazing serves a positive purpose could influence their perpetration of hazing.

Previous hazing activities as a rookie may also be a key to understanding the perpetration of hazing. Given the high prevalence of hazing victimization, nearly all perpetrators of hazing were once hazed and these experiences as a hazing victim may influence the hazing activities they perpetrate as veterans. Though the hazing literature does not address why this cycle may occur, it is possible that rookie athletes identify with the older veterans on their team, and may eventually model the activities to which they were subjected. Such an explanation has been offered in the sexual abuse literature (Glasser, Kolvin, Campbell, Glasser, Leitch, & Farrelly, 2001) and is consistent with SCT as through the vicarious capability rookie athletes may learn what behaviors are accepted and rewarded on their new team and choose to engage in these behaviors when they assume the veteran role.

Environmental Factors

Two key enviromnental factors were considered in the current study: team size and degree of physical contact permitted in the sport. With respect to the impact of team size, a large body of social psychological research shows larger group size promotes deindividuation (i.e., loss of individuality, self-evaluation apprehension and self-awareness) and diffusion of responsibility (i.e., reduction of moral self-sanctioning as blame is diffused across the group; Bandura, 1986), both of which are associated with perpetration of wrongdoing and aggressive acts (Bandura, 1986; Diener, 1980; Kugihara, 2001; Zimbardo, 2004). Thus, larger team size might contribute to higher rates of hazing perpetration via the deindividuation and diffusion of responsibility mechanisms.

Second, sports with a greater degree of physical contact have been found to have higher levels of extra-sport aggression (Nixon, 1997). Moreover, athletes competing in contact and collision sports report more legitimacy in aggressive behavior than non-contact sport athletes (Conroy, Silva, Newcomer, Walker, & Johnson, 2001). Athletes experienced with hazing have reported a belief that hazing is more likely to occur in aggressive contact sports (Waldron & Kowalski, 2009). Collision sport athletes are expected to engage in activities on the field of play that cause them to use their body as a tool, depersonalize their opponent and demonstrate toughness and courage through ignoring injury or pain (Allan & DeAngelis, 2004). Some view collision sports as promoting a hyper-masculine environment where athletic prowess and toughness are valued (Allan & DeAngelis, 2004; Mosher & Sirkin, 1984). When these components of the collision sport environment are considered in the context of hazing, an increase in proclivity to haze is plausible.


Beyond collecting hazing perpetration prevalence data, the primary goal of this research was to test a comprehensive model of hazing perpetration behavior, guided by SCT. Five personal factors (sex, moral disengagement, attitudes toward initiation purpose, attitudes toward initiation difficulty, rookie hazing experiences) and two environmental factors (team size, degree of physical contact) were examined as predictors of individual differences in hazing perpetration over an athlete's career.



Varsity athletes (N=338) competing at the top tier of higher education sport from seven Canadian universities participated in this study. Given a theoretical focus on sex, team size and the degree of contact in the sport, the researchers attempted to balance participants across these criteria. Although data were not collected on race and ethnicity, the vast majority of participants were Caucasian, reflecting the Eastern Canadian population. Of the final sample, 61 (18%) were women competing in collision sports, 93 (27.5%) were men competing in collision sports, 96 (28.4%) were women competing in non-collision sports and 88 (26.0%) were men competing in non-collision sports. Participants had a mean age of 20.4 (SD = 2.41) years, had been competing in their sport for 10.4 (SD = 4.76) years, and represented the following sports: cross-country running (n = 33), volleyball (44), basketball (40), soccer (57), ice hockey (62), rugby (61) and football (41).


Team size. Team size was represented by the roster size limit for Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championship competition (CIS, 2007) as follows: volleyball 12, soccer 18, hockey 23, football 40, cross-country running 7, basketball 14 and rugby 25. Although the team size could only take on the values as indicated above Team size was conceptualized as a continuous variable because the proportional difference between teams was of theoretical relevance.

Degree of physical contact. The degree of physical contact in each sport was classified using guidelines established by Silva (1983) whereby contact is organized into three categories: collision (contact is necessary and integral to play), contact (contact is legal and occurs incidentally) and non-contact (contact between opponents is not allowed). The current investigation modified this classification by comparing only collision and non-collision sports (including non-contact and contact sports). Men's hockey, football and women's rugby were classified as collision sports, whereas basketball, soccer, women's hockey, volleyball and cross-country running were classified as non-collision sports.

Demographic questionnaire. A demographic questionnaire was utilized to assess sex, sport, age, years competing in the sport and other sports in which the respondent competed. Participants were not queried as to the university they attended or the province in which they lived; this omission helped protect the confidentiality of both the individual respondent and the institutions participating in the project.

Initiation experiences questionnaire. An Initiation Experiences Questionnaire (IEQ) was developed to capture data on experiences as a hazing victim and perpetrator. Most questions were modeled after those used in the 1999 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) study assessing hazing rates in the U.S. (Hoover, 1999). Data from the IEQ were used to specify the levels of hazing and to describe the nature of the hazing activities perpetrated. Using the IEQ, participants were queried about their participation in 25 different initiation activities both as a rookie and as a veteran. These activities fell into Hoover's (1999) classification of acceptable, questionable, alcohol-related and unacceptable activities. All activities in the questionable, alcohol-related and unacceptable categories were classified as hazing behaviors. The number of different researcher-defined hazing activities perpetrated over the course of the participants' careers served as the dependent measure in the analysis. The reliability of the 18 items on this composite hazing variable was good ([alpha] = .84).

Moral disengagement. The Mechanisms of Moral Disengagement Scale (MMDS) measures individuals' propensity to disengage the cognitive processes responsible for the self-regulation of moral behavior (Bandura et al., 1996). Higher scores on this 32-item measure indicate a higher tendency to morally disengage. The MMDS is negatively correlated with measures of prosocial behavior and positively related to aggressive behavior across a number of age groups (Bandura et al., 1996). The MMDS showed acceptable internal consistency in the current study ([alpha] = .85).

Attitudes about initiation. The Survey of Attitudes about Fraternities and Sororities (Pledging) (SAAFS) (Cokley et al., 2001) was modified for the athletic setting through consultation with the scale author and is herein referred to as the Survey of Attitudes about Initiations in Sport (SAAIS). Two scales from the SAAIS, attitudes about initiation (purpose) and attitudes about initiation difficulty were used in the current study and showed acceptable levels of internal consistency with [alpha]'s of .77 and .73 respectively.


Following the receipt of ethics approval from all seven participating universities, the local Athletic Directors (ADs) were contacted for approval to approach the coaches of the varsity teams at their schools. Once approval was obtained from an AD at a given university, the AD informed coaches that the study was taking place and that a researcher would be contacting them directly. Coaches were an important point of contact for data collection purposes. A purposive sampling procedure was used in an attempt to balance athletes across sex, degree of contact and team size. Coaches of teams satisfying the predetermined sampling criteria were identified, randomly selected and contacted. Every coach who was contacted about the study agreed to arrange a meeting between his/her team and the first author who subsequently travelled to collect data from all 27 teams in person. Participant recruitment was halted when a priori sample size projections (power analysis indicated a minimum of 76 participants) were exceeded and participants appeared to be balanced across recruitment criteria. At these meetings, the researcher explained the study and provided the participants with informed consent forms. No incentives were offered. Participants completed questionnaires in one of three places: a classroom, locker room, or the stands surrounding their court/field of play. Coaches were not present during data collection and were not given any feedback regarding who participated.


Descriptive Analyses of Independent and Dependent Variables

Table 1 summarizes the mean, standard deviation, range and Cronbach's alphas for all the continuous variables used in the major analyses. As shown in Table 1, participants were only moderately prone to disengage morally (M = 51.93, SD = 8.52), were more likely to disagree than agree that difficult initiations were necessary (M = 8.38, SD = 3.03) but agreed to some extent that initiation plays an important role on sports teams (M = 22.15, SD = 4.77). With respect to hazing victimization, athletes in this study had been subjected to a mean of 5.26 (SD = 3.45) different hazing activities. In terms of hazing perpetration, 71.0% of participants had perpetrated at least one hazing activity, with an average of 4.5 different activities perpetrated by these hazers. Table 2 presents more detailed information pertaining to the types of activities perpetrated by these athletes.

Predicting the Number of Different Hazing Activities Used as a Veteran

Data were analyzed using a hierarchical multiple regression analysis. The criterion variable was the number of hazing activities perpetrated as a veteran. Informed by temporal and theoretical considerations, predictors were entered in two steps. Step 1 consisted of sex, moral disengagement, team size, degree of physical contact, and number of activities subjected to as a rookie whereas Step 2 was comprised of the two hazing attitude measures. As summarized in Table 3, both steps of the hierarchical regression were significant (Step 1: [R.sup.2] = .49, F (5, 332) = 63.44, p < .001; Step 2: [DELTA][R.sup.2] = .01, [DELTA] F (2, 330) = 4.70, p = .010). The regression model accounted for approximately 50% of the variance in hazing perpetration. As both sets of predictors were found to be statistically significant, the individual predictors within those steps were examined for their individual contributions to the model.

Personal Factors and hazing perpetration. The first personal factor examined was participant sex. Men on average had perpetrated 3.64 (SD = 3.41) hazing activities in their career compared to women who had perpetrated 2.62 (SD = 2.74). Although a bivariate comparison indicated the sex difference in hazing perpetration to be statistically significant F (1, 336) = 8.84, p = .003, when considered in conjunction with the other predictors in the regression, sex was not a unique (i.e., did not account for variance beyond that contributed by the other predictors) individual predictor of the number of different hazing activities perpetrated by the athletes (semi-partial correlation (sr) = .05).

Moral disengagement and hazing activities as a veteran had a positive correlation of r = .41, p <.001. When examined in the regression model, moral disengagement emerged as a significant unique predictor of the number of different veteran hazing activities (sr = . 13). Increases in proneness for moral disengagement were related to increases in the number of different hazing activities perpetrated and accounted for approximately three percent of the variance on the DV.

Attitudes regarding initiation difficulty and the number of hazing activities perpetrated had a positive correlation of r = .37, p <.001. However, when considered as a part of the set of predictors, an insignificant semi-partial relationship (sr = .03) was observed. Conversely, attitudes toward the purpose of initiation, which had a positive correlation of r = .33, p < .001 with the number of different hazing activities used, was found to be a significant predictor of veteran hazing activities (sr = .10). However, attitudes only accounted for about one percent of the variance in hazing perpetration.

Finally, a large positive correlation of r = .66, p < .001 was found between the amount of hazing activities endured as a rookie and the number of different hazing activities perpetrated as a veteran. When analyzed as part of the regression, rookie experiences with hazing was found to be a significant predictor of the number of different hazing activities used as a veteran (sr = .53). That is, athletes who had more hazing experiences as a rookie perpetrated more hazing activities as a veteran compared to those with fewer rookie experiences. This was the strongest unique relationship in the study, accounting for nearly 30% of the variance in the DV.

Environmental factors and hazing perpetration. A small positive correlation of r = .27, p < .001 was found between team size and hazing activities used as a veteran. However, when analyzed as a part of the regression model, team size was not found to be predictive of hazing perpetration (sr = -.02).

Finally, collision sport athletes on average had perpetrated 4.22 (SD = 3.49) different hazing activities as veterans compared to non-collision sport athletes who had used 2.28 (SD = 2.53) activities. ANOVA confirmed this bivariate difference to be statistically significant, F(1, 336) = 34.81, p < .001. However, when degree of physical contact was considered with the other predictors, it was found to have a small and insignificant unique relationship with the DV (sr = .05).


Few researchers have explored the precursors of hazing perpetration or the factors that perpetuate the practice's existence and to our knowledge this is the first study to provide a detailed profile and explanatory analysis of hazing perpetration in varsity athletics. Initial research has been undertaken to explain why veterans perpetrate hazing including the rationalizations given by hazers, descriptions of hazing activities, perceived social benefits, and descriptions of motivating factors (Bryshun & Young, 1999; Hinkle, 2006; Johnson, 2011; Waldron & Kowalski, 2009; Waldron et al., 2011). In the current study, SCT (Bandura, 1986) was used successfully as the theoretical basis for examining the extent to which specific personal and environmental factors can account for variation in hazing perpetration.

Within the institution of sport, researchers have found that sex differences exist in the rookie hazing experiences of varsity athletes (Allan, 2005; Allan & Madden, 2008; Hoover, 1999; Nuwer, 2000) and in self-reported hazing perpetration (Campo et al., 2005). Specifically, men appear to be more involved in hazing than are women. Although bivariate analysis supported this contention, sex did not uniquely predict the number of hazing activities carried out as a veteran. It has been suggested that the hazing practices of women are becoming increasingly similar to those of men, especially as women continue to enter traditionally male sporting environments, such as rugby and ice hockey. (Johnson & Holman, 2009). The present study failed to support this convergence, as a gap still exists between men and women in their rate of hazing perpetration. Nevertheless, sex did not uniquely account for individual differences in hazing perpetration, indicating that sex differences in hazing perpetration were redundant with other factors in the model. In particular, men and women showed differences in moral disengagement (men showing higher moral disengagement Sex differences in moral disengagement have been found by other researchers (Bandura et al., 1999, 2002; Paciello, Fida, Tramontano, Lupinetti & Caprara, 2008; Turner, 2009), indicating that men are more prone to disengage morally than are women. Specifically, Turner (2009) found that sex differences in bullying and other aggressive behaviors were largely accounted for by moral disengagement.

Moral disengagement was found to be a significant individual predictor of the number of hazing activities used as a veteran. This finding lends support to Bandura's theory of moral disengagement, as well as to the work of other researchers who have linked moral disengagement to injurious behavior (Bandura, 1986; Bandura et al., 2001; Hafez, 2006; McCreary, 2012; Osofsky et al., 2005). Individuals who chose to perpetrate a greater number of hazing activities appear to be more prone to disengage moral self-regulation. SCT posits that our self-regulatory capability influences which behaviors we will choose to engage in and which we will choose to avoid; therefore, the disengagement of this capability has implications for behavior.

Attitudes about difficult initiations were not found to be predictive of hazing perpetration. A possible reason for the lack of unique predictive ability for attitudes toward initiation difficulty is that the measurement of this attitude may not have been specific enough to the actual initiation experiences of veterans or the overall unfavourable attitudes toward difficult initiations exhibited by participants. On the other hand, participants' attitudes about the purpose of initiation did predict variability in hazing perpetration. This finding supports previous research regarding a link between behaviors and attitudes (Crano, 1997; Kraus et al., 1995; Nixon, 1997; Prisline & Ouellette, 1996) and confirms another uniquely predictive personal factor in the proposed hazing perpetration model. In his qualitative work with athletes following an orientation experience, Johnson (2011) found experienced hazers/hazees endorsed the necessity of hazing to create group bonding (serving a positive purpose). Using a revised version of Cokley and colleagues (2001) SAAFS, the current study has quantified attitudes toward the purpose of initiation and positively linked supportive initiation attitudes with hazing perpetration. Nevertheless, the contribution of attitude measures to the prediction of hazing perpetration was negligible, accounting for only 1% of the variance in hazing perpetration.

The most important finding in the current investigation was that the degree of hazing endured as a rookie accounted for nearly 30% of the variance in hazing perpetration. In the current study, 76% of participants who were subjected to at least one hazing activity as a rookie went on to perpetrate at least one hazing activity as a veteran. Conversely, of the 26 (7.7%) participants in this study who had not experienced hazing as a rookie, only three (11.5%) had perpetrated a hazing activity as a veteran.

According to SCT, the vicarious capability allows individuals to learn through indirect experiences, typically through the observation of behavioral models (Bandura, 1986). University athletes are often already experienced with hazing as a result of exposure from high school or club initiations, and these previous experiences may have served to establish beliefs about what behaviors are acceptable, endorsed, or desired in the initiation context (Allan & Madden, 2008; Crow & Macintosh,, 2009). Rookie athletes may learn vicariously how to achieve acceptance and improved status on their new team. Achieving acceptance and status is essential to the first year athlete who, consistent with the sport ethic, may be willing to make sacrifices and strive for distinction (i.e., submit to hazing activities) (Waldron & Krane, 2005). Concurrent with enduring their hazing, rookies may also become aware of the power hierarchy in their new environment and the behaviors in which those with power choose to engage (Bryshun, 1997; Holman, 2004). Bandura (1986) stated that, "the types of models that prevail within a social milieu partly determine which qualities, from among many alternatives, are selectively activated" (p. 50).

An athletic environment that appears to support hazing satisfies many of the requirements of effective modeling and observational learning. For instance, the hazing behaviors modeled by veteran athletes are salient to rookies who may find themselves in a vulnerable position and motivated to attend. Through this narrowed attention, rookies may learn which behaviors constitute acceptable initiation, which behaviors are rewarded and also foresee themselves receiving these positive outcomes when they assume the role of veteran the following season. Furthermore, the incentives experienced by veterans are clear and may have a substantial influence on the motivational processes that impact whether a rookie athlete will chose to perform the acquired hazing behavior. For instance, Waldron and Kowalski (2009) found that veteran athletes reported hazing because it was fun or served as an opportunity to suppress potential threats to their position on the team. These newly observed behavioral patterns and rules, the apparent acceptance of hazing in a particular sport environment, and the response facilitation effects related to the inherent social rewards experienced by veteran hazers, may account for the strong positive relationship between rookie and veteran hazing activities.

It was proposed that the potential for diffusion of responsibility and deindividuation would increase as team size grew and consequently, hazing perpetration would be more likely. This was not supported in the current investigation. The current findings are inconsistent with research by Bandura (2007) who found that diffusion of responsibility reduced the self-sanctioning reactions of prison guards, and Zimbardo (2004) who found that the deindividuation brought about by group membership was related to the commitment of both aggressive and antisocial acts. It is possible that the deindividuation afforded by large team sizes may actually enable some veteran athletes to opt out of perpetrating hazing because there is already a large group able to carry out the hazing traditions and activities planned by the team, although additional research is needed to investigate this further.

The degree of physical contact was not a significant predictor of the number of hazing activities used. Consistent with assertions by athletes in previous research, there was a pronounced bivariate difference between athletes in collision and non-collision sports (Waldron & Kowalski, 2009); yet the degree of contact in the sport did not contribute beyond the other factors in the predictive model. Individual differences in the number of different hazing activities perpetrated appear to be more dependent on personal factors rather than the situational influences associated with environmental factors in SCT. Specifically, rookie hazing experiences and moral disengagement accounted for nearly all of the predicted variance in the number of hazing activities perpetrated. While certain environmental and contextual factors may make it more likely that a team chooses to haze, the extent of perpetration amongst the individual veterans appears to be heavily influenced by personal factors.

Limitations and directions for future research

A limitation of the current work worth considering is the approach of viewing personal and environmental factors independently as, according to SCT, these factors interact with each other to influence behavior (Bandura, 1986). Although post hoc analyses revealed no statistically significant interactions between the personal and environmental variables selected in the present study, the interactive and mutually deterministic properties of personal and environmental factors should not be overlooked in future investigations. The present research may have also been limited by the manner in which team size was assessed. Future researchers may wish to collect team size data directly from the athletes rather than relying on roster size limits set by the governing body of the sport.

Also, the generalizability of these Canadian results to university sport in other countries is worth considering. University sport is organized differently across countries and regions. These differences may have an impact on various forms of the athletic experience. For instance, college sport in the United States often involves full athletic scholarships (Johnson, 2011), making it a desirable destination for graduating high school athletes across North America and beyond. The heightened prestige and social status of competing in college sport in the United States may influence hazing. Future research will clarify to what extent the research can be generalized to different sport cultures.

The refinement of hazing measurement as well as the inclusion of other personal and environmental variables could enhance the prediction of hazing perpetration using SCT. Although the environmental predictors included in the current study showed limited unique predictive ability, other aspects of the athletic environment could be related to individual differences in hazing perpetration. For instance, the social status of a sport may be an important environmental predictor of hazing behaviors (Bryshun, 1999; Robinson, 1998; Robinson, 2004). For instance, researchers have found that varsity athletes were more likely to experience hazing as a rookie (74%) than club level athletes (64%) or intramural athletes (49%) (Allan & Madden, 2008). Furthermore, athletes have indicated a belief that more popular sports see higher rates of hazing than the less popular ones (Waldron & Kowalski, 2009). Heightened team status may promote stronger athletic identities and team subcultures, which may in turn influence the extent to which team members experience hazing as a perpetrator or victim (Hinkle, 2008).

Another environmental predictor worth consideration for future study includes a measurement of the existence, communication and application of anti-hazing policies within an institution. Moreover, the role of the coach in setting a standard of expectations or influencing group norms cannot be overlooked. Future researchers may wish to assess coaches' knowledge of and attitudes toward initiation as a predictor of hazing perpetration as a coach's overt or implicit support has been mentioned by researchers as a pertinent aspect of the hazing ritual (Johnson, 2011).

A personal factor that may be of interest in future research is that of athletic identity. It is plausible that rookie and veteran athletes alike, who identify strongly with the athlete role, will participate in hazing to achieve their desired status on a team. Conformity (overconformity) is another factor worthy of consideration in future hazing investigations. Given the social implications of joining and feeling connected to a team, and the risks of not conforming to team rules and rituals, it seems that conformity could be related to the perpetration of hazing behavior. As previously mentioned adherence to the sport ethic has implications where conformity to hazing rituals is concerned (Waldron & Kowalski, 2009).

The issue of gender is also worthy of further exploration. In the current study participants were instructed to identify as male or female yet this dichotomy may not fully reflect the extent to which an individual adheres to the feminine or masculine norms associated with their sex. Measurement of gender identity should be used in future investigations as female participants who identify more strongly with a masculine identity may be more prone to haze than those who associate more strongly with a feminine identity. The degree of masculinity reported on male sports teams may also exacerbate or buffer against hazing perpetration and is worthy of further exploration.


SCT provides a broad model for explaining hazing behavior. While others have suggested that future research on hazing include issues and theories such as power, patriarchy, symbolic interactionism, over-conformity, overconsumption, nudity and gender; we suggest that SCT must also be strongly considered, especially when individual differences in hazing are the focus (Groves, Griggs and Leflay, 2012). Personal and environmental factors included in the current investigation accounted for half of the variance in hazing perpetration and thus help advance our theoretical understanding of hazing perpetration as well as contribute to the development of hazing prevention interventions. In particular, practitioners should especially consider past hazing experiences of team members and explore the culture of hazing that exists on the team(s) with whom they are consulting. Understanding these past experiences can provide insight as to what activities may be carried out and how strongly committed team members are to hazing. Furthermore, practitioners should plan to mitigate the potential for moral disengagement. For instance, sport psychologists should emphasize individual responsibility for any hazing actions taken thereby curbing diffusion and displacement of responsibility and consider promoting activities that humanize rookie athletes rather than dehumanize them (Johnson, 2011).


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Ryan Hamilton, David Scott, Diane LaChapelle, and Lucia O'Sullivan

University of New Brunswick

Address correspondence to: Dr. Ryan Hamilton, Psychology Department University of New Brunswick PO Box 4400, Fredericton, NB Canada E3B 5A3. E-mail: r.hamilton@unb. ca
Table 1
Mean, Standard Deviation, Range and Cronbach's alpha
for all Continuous Predictor and Criterion Variables (N = 338)

Variable                  Mean       Observed   Potential   Cronbach's
                          (SD)        Range       Range       Alpha

Moral Disengagement   51.93 (8.52)    35-78       32-96        .85

Hazing Activities      5.26 (3.45)     0-16        0-18        .81
as a Rookie

Attitude:             22.15 (4.77)     7-35        7-35        .77
Initiation Purpose

Attitude:              8.38 (3.03)     4-17        4-20        .73

Hazing Activities      3.17 (3.16)     0-13        0-18        .84
as a Veteran

Table 2
Percentage of participants perpetrating (having rookies engage in)
each initiation activity over the course of their entire career.

                                            Percentage using
                                              this activity
                                             to initiate new
           Initiation Activity                team members

At Least One Initiation Activity                  94.1
Acceptable Activities                             93.5
  Attend Preseason Training                       83.1
  Team Building Activities                        86.4
  Test for Skill / Endurance                      73.7
  Maintain Specific GPA                           47.0
  Dress up for Functions                          69.8
  Volunteer as a Team                             43.2
  Take an Oath, Sign a Contract                   30.8
At Least One Hazing Activity                      71.0
Questionable Activities (at least one)            65.7
  Yell or Curse at                                36.4
  Wear Embarrassing Clothes                       44.7
  Tattoo, Shave, Brand                             6.2
  Unnecessary Calisthenics                        17.2
  Limited Associations                             5.3
  Rookie act as a Servant to Veteran              30.2
  Deprive of Sleep or Food                         3.3
  Consume Disgusting Food                         26.3
Alcohol-Related Activities (at least one)         54.7
  Drinking Contest                                49.4
  "Chug" or "Shoot" Alcohol                       48.8
Unacceptable Activities (at least one)            26.6
  Prank Call/Harass Others                         9.8
  Destroy or Steal Property                        5.6
  Simulate Sexual Acts                            10.9
  Have rookie engage in Sexual Acts                3.0
  Tie Up, Tape, or Confine                        10.1
  Paddle, Whip, Beat                               7.4
  Force Rookie to Beat Others                      2.7
  Kidnap or Transport                              1.5

Table 3
Summary of Hierarchical Regression Analysis for Variables Predicting
Number of Hazing Activities Used as a Veteran (N = 338)

Variables                           [beta]     SEB    [beta]

Step 1
  Sex                                 0.35    0.27       .06
  Moral Disengagement                 0.08    0.02       .21
  Team Size                          -0.01    0.02      -.04
  Degree of Physical Contact          0.48    0.40       .08
  Hazing Activities as a Rookie       0.53    0.04       .58

Step 2
  Attitude: Initiation Difficulty     0.04    0.05       .04
  Attitude: Initiation Purpose        0.08    0.03       .11

Variables                             t      Sig. (p)

Step 1
  Sex                                1.32      .187
  Moral Disengagement                4.44     <.001
  Team Size                         -.054      .587
  Degree of Physical Contact         1.19      .236
  Hazing Activities as a Rookie     13.61     <.001

Step 2
  Attitude: Initiation Difficulty    0.79      .429
  Attitude: Initiation Purpose       2.66      .008

Note. [R.sup.2] = .49 (p < .001) for
Step 1; [DELTA][R.sup.2] = .01 (p = .010) for Step 2.
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Author:Hamilton, Ryan; Scott, David; LaChapelle, Diane; O'Sullivan, Lucia
Publication:Journal of Sport Behavior
Article Type:Report
Date:Aug 13, 2016
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