The Perceived Legitimacy of Rule Violating Behavior in Sport

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John M. Silva III University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

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Some sport scientists have suggested that various rule violating behaviors (including aggressive player behavior) are normative behaviors perceived to be “legitimate violations” by participants (e.g., Silva, 1981; Vaz, 1979). In an attempt to determine if sport socialization influences the degree of perceived legitimacy of rule violating sport behavior, 203 male and female athletes and nonathletes were shown a series of eight slides. Seven of these slides clearly depicted rule violating behavior. The subjects rated the unacceptability-acceptability of the behavior shown on each slide on a scale of 1 to 4 (totally unacceptable-totally acceptable). Subjects were categorized according to: (a) gender, (b) amount of physical contact, (c) highest level of organized sport participation, and (d) years of participation. Regression and polynomial regressions indicated that male respondents rated rule violating behavior significantly more acceptable than females. Trend analyses on the other categorical variables indicated support for an in-sport socialization process that legitimizes rule violating behavior. This perceived legitimacy was considerably more pronounced for males than for females at all levels of analysis.

Requests for reprints should be sent to John M. Silva 111, Department of Physical Education, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27514.

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