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Psychopathy, gang membership, and moral disengagement among juvenile offenders

Katie Dhingra (Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK)
Agata Debowska (Department of Psychology, University of Chester, Chester, UK)
Kathryn Sharratt (University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, UK)
Philip Hyland (National College of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland)
Susanna Kola-Palmer (University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, UK)

Journal of Criminal Psychology

ISSN: 2009-3829

Article publication date: 2 February 2015

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the impact of psychopathy factors and gang membership on moral disengagement while controlling for age, ethnicity, having run away from home, family member and/or friend arrests, substance misuse, parental physical fights, violence exposure (victimization and witnessing), and maternal warmth and hostility.

Design/methodology/approach

The research is based on data collected from serious juvenile offenders (n=769) as part of the Pathways to Desistance Study.

Findings

Six independent variables made a unique statistically significant contribution to the model: gang membership, age, gender, violence exposure, and psychopathy Factors 1 and 2. Psychopathy Factor 1 was the strongest predictor of moral disengagement.

Originality/value

Results indicate that youth with heightened psychopathic traits make greater use of strategies to rationalize and justify their harmful behaviour against others. Implications in relation to theory and previous studies are discussed.

Keywords

Citation

Dhingra, K., Debowska, A., Sharratt, K., Hyland, P. and Kola-Palmer, S. (2015), "Psychopathy, gang membership, and moral disengagement among juvenile offenders", Journal of Criminal Psychology, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 13-24. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCP-11-2014-0016

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited