Moral disengagement is a psychological process in which people use different cognitive strategies to justify their potentially problematic actions and to reduce feelings of shame and guilt. Athletes with high level of moral disengagement in sport may show more antisocial behavior and less prosocial behavior than other athletes. To date, most research investigating prosocial and antisocial behavior in sport has focused on behaviors directed at opponents. However, recent studies have also investigated prosocial and antisocial behavior within sport teams. Since the majority of past studies have been conducted in western countries, we know little about moral disengagement of Chinese athletes. Therefore, the purpose of the present study was to develop a valid and reliable measure of sport moral disengagement and to examine the relationship between sport moral disengagement and prosocial and antisocial behavior among Chinese athletes.
Study 1 sought to develop a sport-specific measure of moral disengagement for Chinese athletes. Forty-eight items were developed based on content analysis of interviews with athletes and mass media reports of transgressions of athletes. Two hundred and fifty-four Chinese athletes were asked to rate their agreement with each item, and their responses were used exploratory factor analyses (EFA). Results showed that 20 items loaded on five factors: (1) conduct reconstrual, (2) advantageous comparison, (3) euphemistic labeling, (4) dehumanization, and (5) non-responsibility. After this, another 283 Chinese athletes filled in the questionnaire. The confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) indicated that the 5-factor solution was stable and the internal reliability of each of the factors was acceptable.
Study 2 tested the relationship between moral disengagement in sport and prosocial and antisocial behavior towards teammates and opponents. Three hundred and six Chinese athletes responded to the 20-items moral disengagement questionnaire developed in Study 1 and the Chinese version of prosocial and antisocial behavior in sports scale (PABSS). Results from multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) and hierarchical regression analysis (HRA) showed that gender, type of sport, and competition level can predict antisocial behavior towards teammates and opponent (R2＝12.88, p < 0.01; R2 ＝41.31, p < 0.01) better than prosocial behavior towards teammates and opponents (R2 ＝5.37, p < 0.01; R2 ＝6.23, p < 0.01). Type of sport was the strongest predictor which negatively predicted antisocial behavior towards teammates and opponents (β = −0.29, t = −5.32, p < 0.01; β = −0.49, t = −9.94, p < 0.01). After controlling for gender, type of sport, and competition level, non-responsibility was the strongest predictor which can significantly and negatively predict prosocial behavior towards teammates and opponents (β = −0.31, t = −5.81, p < 0.01; β = −0.28, t = −5.27, p < 0.01); euphemistic labeling was the strongest predictor to positively predict antisocial behavior towards teammates (β = 0.23, t = 4.16, p < 0.01); conduct reconstrual was the strongest predictor which could significantly and positively predict antisocial behavior towards opponents (β = 0.25, t = 5.33, p < 0.01).= 0.06, F(3, 302)= 0.05, F(3, 302)= 0.29, F(3, 302) = 0.11, F(3, 302)
The present study contributes to research into moral disengagement in sports by developing a valid measurement instrument for moral disengagement in Chinese athletes, and by analyzing the relationship between sport moral disengagement and prosocial and antisocial behavior towards teammates and opponents in Chinese athletes.