“My teammates think it is alright to fight to protect friends”: Collective moral disengagement in team sports

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Moral disengagement refers to a set of cognitive mechanisms used to justify transgressive behaviours in order to avoid self-sanctions and minimize negative emotions. Moral disengagement has been widely studied in sport psychology, but only at the individual level. Collective moral disengagement (CMD), which refers to the shared beliefs in justifying negative actions performed by the members of one’s group, has received little research attention. In this study, we aimed to examine whether CMD and performance motivational climate predict adolescents’ antisocial behaviour towards teammates and opponents in team sports. We surveyed 172 Italian adolescent athletes (Mean age = 15.41 ± 1.73 years; 51.7% females). Participants completed a questionnaire measuring CMD, performance motivational climate and antisocial behaviour towards teammates and opponents. We found positive direct effects of CMD and performance motivational climate on antisocial behaviours. CMD was also related to antisocial behaviour towards teammates more strongly when performance motivational climate in the team was high. Our findings suggest the need to consider collective morality to better understand young athletes’ antisocial behaviour in sport.


Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021