The relationship between moral climate of sports and the moral behavior of young athletes: a multilevel meta-analysis

Anouk Spruit, Maria Kavussanu, Tim Smit, Marlous IJntema

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
274 Downloads (Pure)


Sports are among the most important leisure activities for youth and adolescents. Both positive (i.e., prosocial) and negative (i.e., antisocial) moral behaviors occur on the playing field. To stimulate positive sports experiences, it is important to understand which factors are related to the moral behavior of young athletes; one of these is the moral climate, that is, the socio-moral environment in which sports take place. Little is known about the overall strength of the relationship between moral climate and moral behavior of young athletes, as well as the potential moderating factors of this relationship. A meta- analysis of 27 studies containing 117 effect sizes and N = 7726 young athletes (age < 18 years) was conducted. The results show that there is an overall significant association between these two variables (r = 0.40), indicating that a prosocial moral climate is related to less antisocial and more prosocial behavior, while an antisocial moral climate is associated with more antisocial and less prosocial behavior of young athletes. Two study characteristics significantly moderated this relationship: specifically, stronger associations were found in cross-sectional and in older studies. In addition, the strength of the association between moral climate and moral behavior was stronger for antisocial moral climate compared to prosocial moral climate. Finally, associations for team members were stronger than those of coaches or a broad moral club climate. Implications for further research and sports practice are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-242
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Youth and Adolescence
Issue number2
Early online date17 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2019


  • sports
  • moral climate
  • moral behaviour
  • young athletes
  • multilevel meta-analysis


Dive into the research topics of 'The relationship between moral climate of sports and the moral behavior of young athletes: a multilevel meta-analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this