Morality, Dysfunction, and Identification

An Examination of Collegiate Football Fans


  • Tammy Sheehy Bridgewater College


moral functioning, moral atmosphere, team identification, dysfunctional fan behavior


The college student fan is complex in their thinking and behavior, particularly within the context of sporting events. Though much research has addressed the impact of team identification on fan behaviors, little research has focused on fans’ perceptions of moral functioning or of the moral atmosphere surrounding university sporting events. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine perceptions of moral atmosphere, levels of moral functioning and team identification, and dysfunctional fan behavior of college student fans on football game days. Participants included 209 undergraduate students (n = 123 males; 86 females) who completed an online questionnaire asking about demographics, as well as perceptions of moral atmosphere and moral functioning, their level of team identification, and their level of dysfunctional fan behavior on football game days. The results showed no correlation between team identification and moral functioning. However, moral atmosphere significantly predicted moral functioning, and administration influence was a stronger predictor than peer influence. In addition, team identification, sex, and peer influence were all significant predictors of engaging in dysfunctional fan behavior. Future research should examine antecedents to, and students’ perceptions of, dysfunctional fan behavior (i.e., what it entails, and how acceptable they deem it to be in a sport setting) as well as perceptions students have of their university administration’s views on conducting morally questionable behavior. Such research may help inform university administration of what types of behavior students feel is appropriate and may provide a specific set of behaviors for administration to target prevention efforts towards.


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