Authors: Dean Culpepper & Lorraine Killion
Dean Culpepper, Ph.D.
P.O. Box 3011
Commerce, TX 75429
Dean Culpepper is an Assistant Professor at Texas A&M University-Commerce in the Health and Human Performance Department and Lorraine Killion is an Associate Professor at Texas A&M University-Kingsville in the Health and Physical Education Department. Both are active as Sport Psychology Consultants working with elite athletes and teams to increase human performance.
21st Century Sport: Microsystem or Macrosystem?
The culture of sport is well defined, and its impact on individuals and cultures can be studied by using an Ecological Systems Theory (ES) approach. ES was developed by Uri Bronfenbrenner to name how particular contexts and their processes overlap, influence, and are influenced by individual members (3, 4, 5). Sport has traditionally been viewed as a microsystem in ES. Sport and the structure of sport have taken on a new character with self-perpetuating motivations and thus may no longer be set apart (16) for individuals live in Sport all the time. The purpose of this research was to examine moral reasoning across groups and settings to support the shift from sport as set aside to an all-pervasive environment. 315 subjects completed a demographic form, the Hahm-Beller Values Choice Inventory, and the DIT-2. Qualitative follow-up interviews were then conducted among groups to determine themes. A MANOVA (Wilks’ Lambda=.430, p<.005) was carried out with Scheffé post hoc tests to determine differences. Athletes scored lowest (p<.001) and when athletes were removed from the evaluation, Sport Science majors scored equivalently (p<.001) to athletes regarding lower moral reasoning scores. Qualitative interviews revealed that athletes and Sport Science majors spent similar amounts of time thinking, watching, reading, exercising, and discussing sport. These findings may suggest that those involved in sport (whether participating or studying) are operating in a milieu differently from those who are not. They are functioning in an all-pervasive structure or meaning-making system that does shape and has formed how they reason morally. Thus separating oneself from the structure of sport may be difficult.
Keywords: sport macrosystem, sport moral reasoning, twenty-four hour sport
A young person growing up does not live in a single value world, rather in multiple value worlds which often overlap and collide. Rather than one distinct and clear message, there are multiple messages conveyed, some in agreement yet many in conflict. Developmental psychologist Uri Bronfenbrenner developed a language of ecologies to name how particular contexts and their processes overlap, influence, and are influenced by individual members (3, 4, 5).
Ecological Systems now referred to as Bioecological System Theory (BST) was formulated to explain how the inherent qualities of a child and the characteristics of the external environment (which the child finds himself) interact to influence how the child will grow and develop. Through his theory, Bronfenbrenner stressed the importance of studying a child in the context of his multiple environments, also known as ecological systems in the attempt to understand his individual development (4, 19).
A child finds himself simultaneously enmeshed in different ecosystems, from the most intimate home ecological system moving outward to the larger school system and the most expansive system which is society and culture. Each of these systems inevitably interacts with and influence each other and every aspect of the child’s life (4, 19). The BST organizes contexts of development into five levels of external force which interlock. The levels are categorized from the most intimate level to the broadest, with the most intimate being the microsystem (19).
The microsystem is the smallest and most immediate environment in which the child lives. As such, the microsystem comprises the daily home, school or daycare, peer group or community environment of the child. Interactions within the microsystem typically involve personal relationships with family members, classmates, teachers and caregivers, in which influences go back and forth. How these groups or individuals interact with the child will affect how the child grows (19). Similarly, how the child reacts to people in his microsystem will also influence how they treat the child in return. More nurturing and more supportive interactions and relationships will understandably foster the child’s improved development (4, 19).
The mesosystem encompasses the interaction of the different microsystems which the developing child finds himself a part of. It is, in essence, a system of microsystems and as such, involves linkages between home and school, between peer group and family, or between family and church (19). If a child’s parents are actively involved in the friendships of their child, invite friends over to their house and spend time with them, then the child’s development is affected positively through harmony and like-mindedness. However, if the child’s parents dislike their child’s peers and openly criticize them, then the child experiences disequilibrium and conflicting emotions, probably affecting his development negatively (4,19).
The exosystem, on the other hand, pertains to the linkages that may exist between two or more settings, one of which may not contain the developing child but affects him indirectly nonetheless. For example, a father who is continually passed up for promotion by an indifferent boss at the workplace may take it out on his children and mistreat them at home (19,4).
The macrosystem is the largest and most distant collection of people and places to the child that still exercises significant influence on the child (19). It is composed of the child’s cultural patterns and values, specifically the child’s dominant beliefs and ideas, as well as political and economic systems (4). According to Boemmel and Briscoe (1) and Ryan, et al. (13), the macrosystem has a cascading influence on the interactions of the other systems. This influence can be seen through the effective collaboration between parents (home environment) and teachers (school environment). Nitzbert (20) further explored the integration of the child to family, school, and the community, with the community emphasizing social relationships through social affiliations.
This model is helpful in demonstrating a young person’s exposure to multiple sets of values and is no more apparent than in the world that young adults live in today with the influence of sport. According to Bronfenbrenner, individual lives within multiple microsystems, each of which has proximal processes (language, interactions, and practices) by which members interact and so learn the lessons of the ecology (i.e., play, love, math, reading, competition, or teamwork) (8) . Each microsystem is influenced by its macrosystem. The macrosystem is the overarching patterns of several microsystems; thus football is a microsystem in the macrosystem of NCAA athletics.
However, sport, with the rise of 24 hour ESPN and non-stop coverage, may be more than a microsystem (14). Sport and the structure of sport have taken on a new character with self-perpetuating motivations and thus may no longer be set apart (16) for individuals live in Sport all the time. This is certainly true with athletes who have shown lower scores on moral reasoning tests (14). If sport is becoming a macrosystem, then similar scores should appear in other microsystems similar to sport. These include the management of sport, kinesiology, or other academic areas in which sport is the primary focus (15).
The purpose of this research was to examine whether sport has taken on the characteristics of a macrosystem by examining sport moral reasoning and general moral reasoning across groups and settings.
The DIT-2 is a device for activating moral schemas (to the extent that a person has developed them) and for assessing these schemas regarding importance judgments. The DIT -2 has dilemmas and standard items, and the subject’s task is to rate and rank the items regarding their moral influence. Validity for the DIT has been assessed regarding seven criteria cited in over 400 published articles (12, 17, 18). Reliability–Cronbach’s alpha is in the upper .70s / low .80s. Test-retest reliability is about the same. The DIT-2 scores are significantly correlated with developmental capacity measures of Moral Comprehension.
The Hahm-Beller Values Choice Inventory (HBVCI) is designed to evaluate moral reasoning in the sport milieu. Participants read twenty-one short standard sport scenarios and assess each situation based on a five point Likert Scale from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree. The HBVCI is the only inventory specifically focused on sport and developed using moral theory as a guide (6). To date, over 80,000 individuals have been assessed using the HBVCI from ninth grade through adult populations, including longitudinal studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, to youth, interscholastic, and intercollegiate athletes and coaches and the general non-competitive population (6). The HBVCI has a high reliability and validity, with reported Cronbach alphas from .74 to .88 (9).
The study was approved by the university’s Institutional Review Board and subjects signed a consent form before data collection. Subjects were recruited and put into one of three groups, control (majors other than sport science), sport science majors, and athletes. A total of 315 (N=315; 174 females, 141 males, and 63 athletes) participated in the study.
Subjects completed a demographic form, DIT-2, and the Hahm-Beller Values Choice Inventory (HBVCI). Athletes were administrated the survey in both their athletic team setting and in a classroom setting outside of sport or sport classes. Qualitative follow-up interviews were then conducted among groups to determine themes.
Demographic information is listed in Table 1, and descriptive data for the scales is listed in Table 2. A MANOVA (Wilks’ Lambda=.430, p<.005) was conducted with Scheffé post hoc tests to determine differences. The control group scored the highest (p<.001) on both the DIT-2 and HBVCI while athletes scored lowest (p<.001). When athletes are removed from the evaluation, Sport Science majors scored equivalently (p<.001) to athletes regarding the DIT-2 and the HBVCI.Qualitative interviews revealed that athletes and Sport Science majors spent similar amounts of time thinking, watching, reading, exercising, and discussing sport.
Athletes and Sport Science Majors scored significantly lower on both sport moral reasoning (HBVCI) and conventional moral reasoning (DIT-2) than the control group. The scores for the athletes are comparable to prior research conducted by Hahm, Beller, & Stoll (10) as well as the control group in this study. This study; however, looked at the inclusion of Sport Science majors after controlling for athletic participation and found that these majors scored the same as athletes on both surveys regarding moral reasoning. While not necessarily surprising, these findings tend to support the idea that being involved in a sport culture may have the same effect as athletes who participate in competition. Research has established that a steady decline in moral reasoning occurs the longer an athlete stays in competition. This study found the same effect by being involved in a sport culture where it becomes a macrosystem which instills cultural beliefs in an individual. These findings may suggest that those involved in sport (whether participating in it or studying it) are operating in a milieu differently from those who are not. They are functioning in an all-pervasive structure or meaning-making system that does shape and has formed how they reason morally. Thus separating oneself from the structure of sport may be challenging and since it is acting as a macrosystem. If sport was just a microsystem, then it suggests both athletes and those who study sport may score differently in an environment outside of sport.
The laws of the Macrosystem determine culture and beliefs, and these beliefs may manifest themselves in illegal gains, strategies, and actions all perceived to be legal. We have not adequately examined the entire picture of the current competitive model and suffer a blindness to the hard, real facts that a Sport Macrosystem promotes the, “If I don’t get caught, it isn’t wrong” mentality. The professional world of sport is vast and long reaching. Future research should further examine moral reasoning and the macrosystem in executives of sport leagues, teams, and other well-defined business structures.
APPLICATIONS IN SPORT
The Sport Macrosystem has the potential to move in directions that are not anticipated if it is not addressed. This becomes especially true if athletes ignore and officials can’t enforce rules and regulation. There have been studies and educational resources to address these concerns such as Winning with Character (2). Yet the focus should be on a comprehensive plan in both physical education and youth sports. Physical Education can provide a cultural and supporting environment that is supportive and reinforces positive behavior. Youth sports need to address the behaviors of professional athletes where professionalism and amateurism can be addressed and discussed, and a clear distinction has to be made. Coaches in youth sport can help in these areas since research (11) has shown that an unequal balance of strength and power can result in serious long-term consequences. Research of bullying and negative behavior in schools has been documented (7, 11). These negative behaviors seen in schools could contribute and manifest to the darker sides of sports.
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