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

Publication date: 2 February 2015



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.


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


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.


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.



Katie Dhingra, Agata Debowska, Kathryn Sharratt, Philip Hyland and Susanna Kola-Palmer (2015) "Psychopathy, gang membership, and moral disengagement among juvenile offenders", Journal of Criminal Psychology, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 13-24

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