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Rationalizing criminal behaviour: The influence of criminal sentiments on sociomoral development in violent offenders and nonoffenders

Stevenson, S.F., Hall, G. and Innes, J.M. (2004) Rationalizing criminal behaviour: The influence of criminal sentiments on sociomoral development in violent offenders and nonoffenders. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 48 (2). pp. 161-174.

Link to Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0306624X03258483
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Abstract

Cognitive developmental theory suggests that mature-level sociomoral reasoning (Stages 3 and 4) can provide a protective factor, or buffer, against antisocial and violent criminal behavior. This study explored whether the influence of internalised criminal sentiments could undermine this buffer. The sample was high-risk men and women offenders (n =99) convicted of serious violent index offences, and men and women nonoffender university students (n = 101). Moral reasoning was measured using the Sociomoral Reflection Measure-Short Form, whereas criminal sentiments were assessed using the Criminal Sentiments Scale. Based on moral reasoning development level the sample was classified into groups: mature- or immature-level moral reasoners. The results suggested that mature-level sociomoral development might not protect a person from identifying with criminal others, and that law violation could be rationalized regardless of sociomoral level. Gender differences were neither expected nor found. The applied implications of the findings are considered.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Law
Publisher: Sage
Copyright: Sage
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/2682
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