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.
Jeffrey Fagan, Elizabeth P. Shulman, Elizabeth Cauffman & Alex R. Piquero,
Moral Disengagement Among Serious Juvenile Offenders: A Longitudinal Study of the Relations between Morally Disengaged Attitudes and Offending,
Developmental Psychology, Vol. 47, p. 1619, 2011; Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 11-280
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/faculty_scholarship/1706