Examining the role of descriptive norms in the social identity and moral behaviour relationship in youth sport


In youth sport settings, social identity (i.e., identification with a team) and descriptive norms (i.e., standards of acceptable behaviours) have been linked to moral behaviour (e.g., Bruner et al., 2014; Shields et al., 2005). In recent work, norms have demonstrated a stronger association with behaviour when the group is personally meaningful (Spink et al., 2013). Thus, we investigated whether descriptive group norms influenced the relationship between social identity and moral behaviour. Male and female athletes (N = 378) from 28 competitive youth ice hockey teams completed measures of social identity (ingroup ties [IGT], cognitive centrality [CC], ingroup affect [IGA]; Bruner et al., 2014) and self-reported prosocial and antisocial behaviour toward teammates and opponents (PABBS; Kavussanu & Boardley, 2009). Team norms represented perceptions that teammates performed the moral behaviours assessed in the PABBS. Multilevel analyses revealed a significant interaction between IGA and team norms for prosocial behaviour toward teammates (PBT; p = 0.01). Simple slopes analysis revealed when team norms for PBT were high, those with high IGA (i.e., positive feelings toward the team) reported greater frequency of PBT than those with low IGA (p = 0.02). There was no relationship between IGA and athletes' PBT when team norms were low (p = 0.48). No interactions for social identity by team norms for prosocial opponent behaviour or antisocial behaviours toward teammates and opponents were found. The findings highlight the potential salient role of group norms to further understand the social identity - moral behaviour relationship in a youth sport setting.

Acknowledgments: SSHRC Insight Development Grant (#430-2013-000950)