Moral Reasoning and the Perceived Legitimacy of Intentionally Injurious Sport Acts

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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  • 1 University of California-Berkeley
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A structural-developmental approach was employed in the present study to investigate athletes' moral cognitions about intentionally injurious sport acts. Analyses were based on interviews with 40 female and male high school and college basketball players. Subjects reasoned about general life and sport-specific moral dilemmas and made judgments in hypothetical and engaged contexts about the legitimacy of sport behaviors presented in the Continuum of Injurious Acts (CIA). Athletes' moral reasoning levels were inversely related to the number of CIA acts they perceived as legitimate; this reasoning-judgment relationship was particularly strong for sport reasoning and judgments made in the hypothetical context. Also, differences in the perceived legitimacy of CIA acts occurred in hypothetical and engaged contexts and as a function of sex and, in the engaged condition, school level. Results were discussed in light of athletes' coordination of moral reasoning and decision-making about intentionally injurious sport acts.

This research was supported by the Institute of Human Development and the Faculty Research Program at the University of California, Berkeley. Appreciation is extended to the research assistants who served as interviewers and scorers, to Bruce Cooper for his contributions in data analysis, and to David Shields for his comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Brenda Jo Bredemeier, Dept. of Physical Education, 200 Hearst Gymnasium, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720.

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