Sex Roles, Vol. 51, Nos. 7/8, October 2004 (
Referees’ Decision Making in Handball and Transgressive
Behaviors: Inﬂuence of Stereotypes About
Gender of Players?
and O. Rascle
The purpose of these studies was to examine gender’s effect on transgressive behaviors and
referees’ decisions during handball games (Study 1) and the potential inﬂuence of gender
stereotypes about players on referees’ decisions as regards these transgressive behaviors
(Study 2). In Study 1, 20 games (10 women’s games and 10 men’s games) were videotaped
and observed. The ﬁndings indicated that men displayed transgressive behaviors more than
women and that referees penalized women more than men. In Study 2, 30 referees answered
a set of questions after they watched an edited video showing similar situations of female and
male players. The ﬁndings showed that the similar situations in the video were judged in a
different way by the referees. Thus, female players were granted more penalties than were
male players. Gender stereotypes could effectively inﬂuence decision making.
KEY WORDS: decision-making; gender; handball; stereotypes; transgressive behaviors.
Studies about aggression in team sports and
their perceived legitimacy are numerous (Conroy,
Silva, Newcomer, Walker, & Johnson, 2001;
Coulomb & Pﬁster, 1998; Rascle, Coulomb, &
Pﬁster, 1998). Yet, these studies have focused mainly
on men’s sport practices and less on women’s sport
practices, perhaps because aggressiveness is often
considered a masculine behavior (Graham & Wells,
2001). Team sports also are more often considered
masculine practices (Koivula, 1995). However, a
study of the differences between men’s and women’s
behaviors in team sports may prove relevant for
a deeper understanding of the aggression process.
Furthermore, few studies deal with refereeing and
decision making in sport. Yet, referees have a central
role in the control of transgressive behaviors (i.e.,
illegal behaviors in regard to the rules of the game,
deﬁned by the Handball International Federation).
Didactic Expertise and Technology of Sport and Physical Activi-
ties Laboratory Rennes, France.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at UFR APS
(Faculty of Sport Sciences), University of Rennes 2, Av. C. Tillon,
35044 Rennes Cedex, France; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, we aimed to study gender’s effect on transgres-
sive behaviors displayed by handball players and
referees’ decisions about these behaviors. Gender
stereotypes are expected to be a relevant explanation
of this latter phenomenon.
Male players are usually reported to be more
aggressive or to consider aggression as more legiti-
mate than female players at the same practice level
(Conroy et al., 2001; Coulomb-Cabagno & Rascle,
2004). Individual or cultural factors mainly account
for this result: legitimacy of aggressive behaviors
is perceived differently by male and female play-
ers (Conroy et al., 2001); goal orientation differs for
men and women (Duda, Olson, & Templin, 1991);
differential sporting and nonsporting socialization
encourages boys and girls to meet social behavior
expectations (Bandura, 1973). The inﬂuence of con-
textual factors is less often taken into account. As a
result, an important actor is often left aside: the ref-
eree. And yet, the decisions made by the referees
seem to inﬂuence largely the nature and frequency of
transgressive behaviors during games. Strict referee-
ing could cause transgressive behaviors to diminish,
2004 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.