How Many Students are Hazed?

Half of the students (48%) reported being subjected to activities that are considered hazing. Based on this percent as the best estimate available, we project more than 1.5 million high school students in the United States are being subjected to some form of hazing each year.

Percent of Students Subjected to Various Types of Hazing
Initiations Rites-Inclusive %
Hazing of Any Form 48
Humiliating Hazing 43
Potentially Illegal Hazing 29
Substance Abuse Hazing 23
Dangerous Hazing 22

Nearly all students who were hazed were subjected to humiliation (43% of the total). Distinguishing what is embarrassing to a teenager from what is humiliation targeted toward specific individuals is a task teenagers struggle to learn. Of the students subjected to humiliating hazing, just under half (19%) were subjected to only humiliating behaviors, while just over half (24%) were also expected to engage in substance abuse or other dangerous acts.

When substance abuse and other dangerous behaviors are combined, nearly a third (29%) of all students were expected to engage in potentially illegal acts as part of an initiation. Twenty-one percent were expected to engage in substance abuse as a form of initiation. Seven percent were engaged in only substance abuse, but no other dangerous hazing, while 16% of all students were also engaged in other dangerous hazing activities. Twenty-two percent of all students were subjected to dangerous hazing beyond substance abuse.

In addition, 13 percent of the students reported that they did not join a group because they were afraid of being hazed (10%), left a group because of the hazing (7%) or both. Struggling to learn socially appropriate and constructive ways to bond and form social identities is a challenge for all high school students. Being ostracized and isolated makes being a teenager even more difficult.

Most high school students did not perceive even the most dangerous initiation activities as hazing. Only 15 percent of the students said that they thought they were hazed in high school, but twice that many reported abusing substances or committing dangerous acts as part of their initiation. Even though high school students' self-report of hazing is substantially lower than the actual behaviors reported, a total of 29 percent said they had been hazed (15%), witnessed hazing (18%), and/or left a group because of the hazing (7%).

Across the United States, the greatest number of high school students were subjected to hazing for sports (24%), peer groups or gangs (16%), music, art, or theater (8%), or church (7%). For all other types of groups, 5 percent or less of all students reported being hazed (estimated at <170,000 per group type). By far the greatest number of high school students were hazed for athletics. Sixty-seven percent of the high school students reported being involved in athletics, and 35 percent of them reported being subjected to some form of hazing; this constitutes 24 percent of all students or approximately 800,672 high school athletes per year.

Percent of Students Hazed to Join Specific Organizations
Group % Estimated #
Sports Team 24 800,672
Peer Group or Gang 16 558,767
Music, Art, Theatre group 8 286,189
Church Group 7 235,091

To understand hazing by organization it is important to look at two factors: the number of students who join an organization, and the percent of students who are hazed to join that organization. For example, only 7 percent of the total population reported being hazed to join a church group yet, because a large number belong to a church group, that 7 percent represents 235,091 children. Although vocational groups, cheerleading squads, and fraternities all hazed a larger percent of new members than church groups, many more students were involved in church groups (29% of the total population) than the other groups (8%, 15%, and 6% respectively). That means that the number of students hazed to join a church group is greater than the number of students hazed to join vocational groups, cheerleading squads or fraternities. Scholastic groups involve a great many students, and yet, the percent of members subjected to hazing was extremely low. Oddly though, when scholastic groups do haze, they tend toward dangerous hazing activities.

A large number of students were involved in sports, music, and church groups so even a modest percent of these groups adds up to a large number of students being hazed. Only 22 percent of high school students belong to gangs, but a high percentage (73%) of gang members are hazed.

Students Involved in Specific Types of Organizations
Group %
Sports Team 67
Music, Art, Theatre group 39
Scholastic/Intellectual Club 30
Church Group 29
Social Club or Organization 25
Peer Group or Gang 22
Cheerleading Squad 15
Newspaper or Yearbook 12
Political or Social group 10
Vocational Group 8
Fraternity or Sorority 6

The organizations that hazed the greatest percentage of their members were fraternities, sororities, peer groups, and gangs:

  • More than one-third of the new players for sports and cheerleading were hazed. Vocational and church groups hazed about a quarter of their new members.
Percent of Students Hazed to Join Specific Organizations
Group %
Fraternity or Sorority 76
Peer Group or Gang 73
Sports Team 35
Cheerleading Squad 34
Vocational Group 27
Church Group 24
Music, Art, Theatre group 22
Political or Social group 21
Social Club or Organization 21
Newspaper or Yearbook 17
Scholastic/Intellectual Club 12