This study examined whether participation in contact sports influences moral functioning within the sport context, and whether these effects are mediated by ego orientation; the role of task orientation on moral functioning was also examined. Participants (N = 221) were college athletes participating in basketball, soccer, field hockey, and rugby. They completed questionnaires assessing sport participation, goal orientations, moral functioning, and social desirability. Structural equation modeling analysis indicated that participation in contact sports positively predicted ego orientation, which in turn predicted low levels of moral functioning. The direct effects of sport participation on moral functioning became nonsignificant in the presence of ego orientation, indicating that the latter construct mediates the relationship between the first two variables. Task orientation corresponded to high levels of moral functioning. These findings help us further understand the processes operating in contact sports and are discussed in terms of their implications for eliminating unsportspersonlike conduct from the sport context.
The authors are with the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences at the University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, U.K.