Intersections of Hazing

Hazing overlaps with other health and well-being concerns for individuals, groups, and the broader community. Research has illuminated intersections between hazing and mental health and well-being, high-risk substance use, sexual harassment and assault, and other forms of interpersonal violence such as bullying.*

Sexual Violence

While the issues of sexual and relationship violence and stalking and hazing are distinct phenomena, they share many common dynamics and incident characteristics. The findings from the National Study of Student Hazing (Allan & Madden, 2008) indicate that slightly over half of students involved in clubs, teams, and organizations experience hazing and the behaviors that are perpetrated against them are abusive, risky and potentially illegal. 

Issues of power, control, and consent, are common dynamics involved with sexual violence and hazing. As well, sexual harassment and assault are sometimes components of hazing activities. Understanding the facts about sexual and relationship violence and harassment can provide a foundation for understanding hazing. 

StopHazing has collaborated with Soteria Solutions and Prevention Innovations to provide resources to help practitioners “connect the dots” between hazing and sexual violence (including sexual harassment, relationship violence, and stalking). The StopHazing Research Lab has explored, and is continuing to investigate, the intersections between hazing and sexual violence including the identification of common risk and protective factors that may help to inform more coordinated and impactful interventions. This paper, Lessons Learned from Bystander Intervention Prevention in Ending Sexual and Relationship Violence and Stalking: Translations for Hazing Prevention (Allan & Stapleton, 2014), further illuminates this intersection and prevention.

Mental Health and Well-being

Hazing experiences and outcomes intersect with student mental health and well-being. Researchers are exploring how individual mental health and the relative well-being of groups and communities can be both a potential risk factor that can amplify harm caused by hazing and/or a protective factor that can help minimize harm and prevent its occurrence. 

Attention to student well-being and mental health can help strengthen partnerships to support hazing prevention initiatives. The StopHazing team is exploring how hazing prevention can be integrated and included in well-being initiatives and how the expertise of health promotion professionals can support capacity for hazing prevention.

Systems of Oppression

Like sexual violence, hazing involves abuse of power. As such, it intersects with, and can reinscribe, power dynamics of larger social systems including sexism, racism, heterosexism, and other systemic oppressions. Further, hazing occurs across many different types of student groups and sociocultural entities (not just predominantly white fraternities). Hazing and hazing prevention also intersect with themes of inclusion, belonging, and mental health. When these intersections are illuminated, hazing prevention partnerships are more likely to form and be sustained and efforts to promote thriving for all community members will be strengthened.

Hazing and Bullying

While they share some similarities, hazing and bullying have different meanings. By definition, bullying typically refers to aggressive behavior among school-age children that is repeated over time, is intended to cause harm, and involves a real or perceived power imbalance (Olweus, 2016) whereas hazing is defined by its relationship to joining or maintaining membership in a group, club, or team. In some cases, incidents of hazing might meet all the criteria of bullying and in those cases, we might call hazing a type of group bullying. However, there are many instances of hazing that do not fit within the scope of bullying as defined. For example, sometimes hazing can involve single events as part of a “rookie night” or “initiation night.”  

A simple way to distinguish hazing from bullying is that hazing typically occurs for the expressed purpose of inclusion whereas youth who bully are typically seeking to exclude and marginalize another child. It’s important to understand the differences between hazing and bullying because many hazing incidents may go unrecognized or be overlooked if a school simply relies on its bullying policy to “cover” hazing. It’s also important to understand the similarities between hazing and bullying as this knowledge can help educators, families, and community members build the skills needed to intervene. Because hazing can contribute to abusive school environments where bullying and other problematic behaviors are more likely to thrive, identifying it and intervening early can help support a school community that is healthy and inclusive. 

Check out this infographic we’ve developed about hazing and bullying – view now.

High-risk Substance Use

Many in the general public have seen news stories where the intersections of hazing and alcohol have lethal consequences. Research has shown that alcohol misuse is frequently associated with hazing in some types of student groups like predominantly white college fraternities. Drinking large amounts of alcohol to the point of getting sick or passing out was a type of hazing behavior reported in a number of studies including the national hazing study and was noted by student-athletes, members of fraternities and sororities, club sport teams, and other types of groups. Substance (alcohol and other drug) misuse can impair judgment and capacity and impairment from substances can impede consent. For all these reasons, substance misuse and hazing can be a problematic combination. 

Without adequate resources and commitment to campus hazing prevention, hazing can contribute to creating a climate where abusive behavior is normalized or minimized – and to environments where other forms of violence and high-risk behaviors may be more likely to thrive. When we think about hazing prevention, we are thinking about preventing the senseless and tragic loss of student lives and we’re also thinking more expansively about how hazing prevention is a key part of an overall comprehensive approach to student health and well-being, inclusive campus communities, and student thriving.

Hazing and Leadership

Hazing occurs in the context of student clubs, teams, and other types of organizations including the military. These environments are arguably some of the most salient living-learning laboratories for leadership development. If hazing is part of a group’s culture, what might this mean for the leadership skills and perspectives these individuals are developing and taking with them into other areas of their lives? This is why StopHazing provides a focus on leadership development in our prevention work  – specifically social change leadership and ethical leadership development –as core strategies for hazing prevention at the individual and group levels. 

*Suggested page citation:
StopHazing Research Lab. (2020, December). Intersections of Hazing. StopHazing Consulting.