Moral Reasoning, Judgment,
and Action in Sport
David Lyle Light Shields
Brenda Jo Light Bredemeier1
University of California, Berkeley
There are a variety of motives for participation in sports. Dating back at least to the Olympic games of ancient Greece, one such motive has been the development of character. The idea that sport can function as a builder of character was so popular that it eventually gained a place within our folk wisdom, as is reflected by the cultural adage "sport builds character." Only recently, however, has the truth of this claim been subjected to empirical investigation. In this chapter, we examine one aspect of the complex concept of character, namely, moral development, as it relates to sport. Moral development is not the totality of what is meant by character, anymore than knowledge exhausts what is meant by wisdom, but it is an important part. Moral development refers to the evolving maturity of a person's grasp of the interpersonal rights and responsibilities that characterize human social life.
This chapter focuses on our own research program as it pertains to moral development among sport participants. In the first part of the chapter, we briefly review two theoretical models of moral development. Both models reflect a structural developmental approach to psychology, the theoretical orientation that has guided our research program. In the remainder of the chapter, we present our major findings under three broad categories: (a) a description of the relationship between morality variables and sport involvement, (b) theory-building about how sport influences moral reasoning and its development, and (c) practical applications of our empirical and theoretical work.____________________