Moral Disengagement Among Serious Juvenile Offenders: A Longitudinal Study of the Relations between Morally Disengaged Attitudes and Offending

15 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2011 Last revised: 5 Oct 2011

See all articles by Jeffrey Fagan

Jeffrey Fagan

Columbia Law School

Elizabeth P. Shulman

University of California, Irvine; University of California, Irvine - School of Social Ecology

Elizabeth Cauffman

University of California, Irvine - School of Social Ecology

Alex R. Piquero

University of Texas at Dallas - School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences; Griffith University

Date Written: September 25, 2011

Abstract

The present study investigates the relation between moral disengagement - one’s willingness to conditionally endorse transgressive behavior - and ongoing offending in a sample of adolescent male felony offenders (N=1,169). In addition, the study attempts to rule out callous-unemotional traits as a third variable responsible for observed associations between moral disengagement and offending. A bivariate latent change score analysis suggests that reduction in moral disengagement helps to speed decline in self-reported antisocial behavior, even after adjusting for the potential confound of callous-unemotional traits. Declines in moral disengagement are also associated with declining likelihood of offending, based on official records. Given that both moral disengagement and offending tend to decrease over time, these findings suggest that changing attitudes toward antisocial behavior contribute to desistance from offending among delinquent youth.

Keywords: moral disengagement, juvenile offending, adolescence, callous–unemotional traits, longitudinal

Suggested Citation

Fagan, Jeffrey and Shulman, Elizabeth P. and Shulman, Elizabeth P. and Cauffman, Elizabeth and Piquero, Alex R., Moral Disengagement Among Serious Juvenile Offenders: A Longitudinal Study of the Relations between Morally Disengaged Attitudes and Offending (September 25, 2011). Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 11-280, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1934939 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1934939

Jeffrey Fagan (Contact Author)

Columbia Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States
212-854-2624 (Phone)
212-854-7946 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.columbia.edu/fac/Jeffrey_Fagan

Elizabeth P. Shulman

University of California, Irvine ( email )

4201 Social & Behavioral Sciences Gateway
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-7085
United States

University of California, Irvine - School of Social Ecology ( email )

226B Social Ecology 1
Irvine, CA 92697
United States

Elizabeth Cauffman

University of California, Irvine - School of Social Ecology ( email )

226B Social Ecology 1
Irvine, CA 92697
United States

Alex R. Piquero

University of Texas at Dallas - School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences ( email )

800 W. Campbell Road, GR31
Richardson, TX 75080
United States
972-883-2482 (Phone)
972-883-6572 (Fax)

Griffith University

170 Kessels Road
Nathan, Queensland QLD 4111
Australia

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