Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

Gary Burns (Committee Member), Sharon Heilmann (Committee Member), Carol Patitu (Committee Chair), Joanne Risacher (Committee Co-Chair)

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


This study investigated the moral foundations of intercollegiate student-athletes in relation to their athletic identity, specifically with respect to student-development in college. Research has established that prolonged participation in sport contributes to the development of an athletic identity (Brewer & Cornelius, 2001; Brewer, Van Raalte & Linder, 1990; Cieslak, 2004) and countless studies have identified significant categorical differences in moral reasoning tendencies between student-athletes and non-athlete students (Bonfiglio, 2011; Bredemeier & Shields, 2006; Howard-Hamilton & Sina, 2001; Lyons & Turner, 2015; Priest, Krause, & Beach, 1999). Two hundred and thirty-eight NCAA Division I intercollegiate, club sport, and intramural sport student-athletes, possessing varying degrees of athletic identity, served as participants. Athletic Identity was measured with the 7-item, 3-factor abbreviated version of the Athletic Identity Measurement Scale (Brewer & Cornelius, 2001), and the Moral Foundations Questionnaire (MFQ) (Graham, et al., 2011) was used to evaluate the moral foundations on which elite-athletes rely. Regression analyses suggested that athletic identity was significantly related to the Ingroup/loyalty, Authority/respect, and Purity/sanctity foundations of the Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) (Graham et al., 2011). ANOVA analyses indicated that female athletes scored higher on Harm/care and Fairness/reciprocity than male athletes and that time (e.g., years of collegiate sporting experience) may contribute to the development of athletes’ moral orientations. The results suggest that maintaining increased degrees of athletic identity may play a role in the moral foundations on which NCAA Division I intercollegiate student-athletes rely.

Page Count


Department or Program

Department of Leadership Studies in Education & Organizations

Year Degree Awarded