The contribution of moral disengagement to adolescents’ use of doping substances

Fabio Lucidi *, Arnaldo Zelli ** and Luca Mallia */**

(*) Department of Development and Socialization Processes Psychology, “Sapienza” - University of Rome, Rome, Italy
(**) Department of Education Sciences in Sport and Physical Activity, University of Rome “Foro Italico”, Rome, Italy


Lucidi, F., Zelli, A., Mallia, L. (2013). The contribution of moral disengagement to adolescents’ use of doping substances. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 44(6), 493-514. doi:10.7352/IJSP.2013.44.493


The present research focused on the general hypothesis that moral disengagement, which involves individuals’ specific means to deactivate moral censures, may partly account for adolescents’ propensity to use doping substances. It also summarised novel analyses from a comprehensive dataset involving 1,975 Italian highschool students, which firstly showed that different mechanisms of moral disengagement loaded on a single dimension and, secondly, evidenced that moral disengagement had reciprocal longitudinal relations with a series of doping-related variables, namely, positive attitudes, self-regulatory efficacy to resist social pressure for doping, social norms concerning approval for doping use, and doping intentions. Furthermore, these patterns of social-cognitive relations partly accounted for adolescents’ use of doping. Thirdly, a series of analyses tested whether the relations among these variables vary with participants’ sport motivational orientations. The findings of the present study emphasise the importance of moral disengagement in the complex system of psychological variables that can influence the choice of using performance-enhancing drugs.

Keywords: Adolescents, Doping use, Moral disengagement, Social cognitive determinants, Task and Ego orientation