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Disentangling the Relations between Social Identity and Prosocial and Antisocial Behavior in Competitive Youth Sport

Abstract

The social identities formed through membership on extracurricular activity groups may contribute to the frequency with which youth engage in prosocial and antisocial behavior. However, researchers have yet to disentangle the individual- and group-level processes social identification effects operate through; sex and perceived norms may also moderate such effects. Thus, we investigated the hierarchical and conditional relations between three dimensions of social identity (i.e., ingroup ties, cognitive centrality, ingroup affect) and prosocial and antisocial behavior in youth ice hockey players (N = 376; 33% female). Multilevel analyses demonstrated antisocial teammate and opponent behavior were predicted by cognitive centrality at the team level. Further, prosocial teammate behavior was predicted by cognitive centrality and ingroup ties at the individual-level. Also, perceived norms for prosocial teammate behavior moderated the relations between ingroup ties, cognitive centrality, and ingroup affect and prosocial teammate behaviour. Finally, sex moderated the relations between cognitive centrality/ingroup affect and antisocial opponent behavior. This work demonstrates the multilevel and conditional nature of how social identity dimensions relate to youth prosocial and antisocial behavior.

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Fig. 1
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Notes

  1. 1.

    We adhere to Cameron’s (2004) conceptualization of ingroup affect, which focuses on the general positive emotions attached to group membership. This is akin to the higher-order construct of positive affect, as represented in the PANAS-X (Watson and Clark 1999). We revisit this issue in the discussion by elaborating on how a more nuanced view of ingroup affect may invigorate novel research questions.

  2. 2.

    It is important to distinguish between collective descriptive norms and perceived descriptive norms. Collective descriptive norms refer to the actual behavioral patterns enacted by members of a social group, which can be assessed through systematically documenting group member behaviors. Importantly, a behavior that is widely enacted by group members is not necessarily readily perceived and cognitively encoded by all group members (Lapinski and Rimal 2005). On the other hand, perceived descriptive norms refer to how individuals construe the social behaviors of other group members (e.g., Cialdini et al. 1990). In the context of this study, we conceptualize and focus on norms as each person’s interpretation of the social environment in which they are embedded—hereafter referred to as perceived norms.

  3. 3.

    k represents the number of teams for each category and n represents the number of participants. Peewee ranges from 11 to 12 year olds, Bantam ranges from 13 to 14 year olds, and Midget ranges from 15 to 17 years old.

  4. 4.

    It was anticipated that when individuals perceive more of the prosocial/antisocial behavior from their teammates then the social identity would have a stronger influence on prosocial/antisocial behaviors. As such only the level 1 interaction between perceived norms and social identity was included. This interaction shows the influence of a player perceiving more behaviors than their teammates but does not account for when one team exhibits more behavior than another team. Theoretically, it would be informative to also examine whether the relations between social identity and prosocial/antisocial behaviors are moderated by such group-level norms (i.e., cross-level interaction) as this would show the effect of collective descriptive norms. The focus for this study was on the individual level perceived norms and the individual effects. Additionally, upon inspection of our initial analysis, there was no significant variability in the slopes of the social identity-prosocial/antisocial behavior relations between teams at level 2. Thus, we examined whether the relations between social identity and prosocial/antisocial behaviors were moderated by perceived norms and sex at the individual level.

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Funding

This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (#435-2016-0591, #43502014-0038). The authors wish to thank all the participating hockey associations, coaches, teams, and young athletes that participated in the study.

Authors’ Contributions

M.W.B. conceptualized and designed the study, supervised overall data acquisition, conducted the analysis, provided interpretation of findings, and led the writing of the manuscript; I.D.B. conceptualized and designed the study, conducted the data analysis, provided interpretation of the findings, and critically revised the manuscript; A.J.B. contributed to the conceptualization and design of the study, conducted the data analysis, provided interpretation of the findings, and drafted and critically revised parts of the manuscript; K.S.W. contributed to the conceptualization and design of the study, conducted the data analysis, provided interpretation of the findings, and critically revised the manuscript; Z.R. supervised data acquisition, participated in drafting and revising parts of the manuscript; J.T. contributed to the conceptualization and design, supervised data acquisition, and critically revised the manuscript; J.S. contributed to the data collection, participated in drafting and revising parts of the manuscript; J.C. conceptualized and designed the study, contributed to data analysis and interpretation of findings, and critically revised the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Mark W. Bruner.

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Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

The institutional review board at Nipissing University has approved this study.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from the parents of the youth athlete participants. All youth athletes gave active assent prior to administration of the survey.

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Bruner, M.W., Boardley, I.D., Benson, A.J. et al. Disentangling the Relations between Social Identity and Prosocial and Antisocial Behavior in Competitive Youth Sport. J Youth Adolescence 47, 1113–1127 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-017-0769-2

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Keywords

  • Group dynamics
  • Team identification
  • Personal development
  • Physical activity