Why Do They Do It?

Most students reported participating in hazing because it was "fun and exciting." Most of these students, however, were involved in only humiliating, rather than dangerous hazing (X2, p<0.001). The reasons for participating clustered into three groups:

  • It was fun and exciting. We felt closer as a group. I got to prove myself.
  • I just went along with it. I was scared to say no. I didn't know what was happening.
  • I wanted revenge.
Reasons for Participating in Hazing
Reason Given %
It was fun and exciting 48
We felt closer as a group 44
I got to prove myself 34
I just went along with it 34
I was scared to say no 16
I wanted revenge 12
I didn't know what was happening 9
Adults do it too 9

Twenty percent reported "other" reasons for participating (n=57). These were quite varied:

  • Personal choice or status: wanted attention; wanted to be in the "cool group;" wanted to show rank; I didn't want to be alone; I was told the girls do it too; gave me self confidence; it's funny, humorous or fun; there's nothing wrong; it's just kids having fun (33%).
  • Tradition, not a problem: everybody goes through it; not dangerous or harmful; wasn't a huge issue; just messing around; it was never harmful, it wasn't too bad; ours was positive; some of it was good hazing; it is a rite of passage; or it's tradition (33%).
  • Pressure: I had to; was forced to; required for my position; price of initiation; adults made me feel there was no choice; I got out; I quit the team; or I stood against it (20%).
  • Get out aggression: desire to engage in various forms of fighting or drunken aggression (7%).
  • Immaturity: "I was immature and uneducated; " and "This was about 6 years ago - I've changed." (two students).

One student said, "Public humiliation helps us to keep from becoming too proud."

Student comments on the surveys ranged from supporting hazing, to supporting free choice, to protesting hazing.

  • "Hazing is a part of life; those who are not strong and complain are not good to be your 'friends.'"
  • "This survey is a waste of time and I don't know what it's for but it isn't pertaining to high school students - send it to college students."
  • "This was the dumbest (sic) survey I've ever taken."
  • "If you're dumb enough to want it, that's your choice."
  • "I personally haven't experienced any form of hazing - now that I am informed of this I strongly disagree with it!"

Still, nearly all students felt that hazing was wrong. 98 percent thought dangerous hazing was wrong, 86 percent thought humiliating hazing was wrong, and 43 percent assumed it was illegal.

At the same time, about a third of the students felt that hazing was socially acceptable (35%) or knew an adult who was hazed (31%).

Students did not know if hazing was illegal in their state. Nearly half of the student (44%) reported that they did not know if hazing was legal or illegal in their state. Another 43 percent thought it was illegal, and 13 percent thought it was legal. Their assumptions, however, were totally unrelated to whether or not there was a law in their state. Of the 13 percent who thought hazing was legal, 82 percent lived in a state with an anti-hazing law and 18 percent lived in a state without an anti-hazing law. Among those who thought hazing was illegal (43%), 86 percent lived in a state with an anti-hazing law, and 14 percent lived in a state with no anti-hazing law. The only states without an anti-hazing law are Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, and South Dakota.

Having a hazing law in place doesn't stop it from happening. Having an anti-hazing law made no significant difference in the level of high school hazing behavior. Among college athletes, however, there were significantly higher rates of hazing in states with no anti-hazing law (Alfred University, 1999).

Students' Response to "Is Hazing Legal?" by Percent of Each Living in a State With and Without an Anti-Hazing Law
Is Hazing Legal in Your State % % Lived in a State with a Law % Lived in State Without Law
Yes 13 of which 82 18
No 43 of which 86 14
Don't know 44 of which 87 14