Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

An evaluation of two restorative practices on measures of moral disengagement, empathy and forgiveness among incarcerated male juvenile offenders
by Errante, John M., Ph.D., TUI University, 2010, 139; 3405141
Abstract (Summary)

This study examined the relationship of two independent variables on attitudes of moral disengagement of male juvenile offenders. The independent variables included living unit grouping and attendance in optional programming of male juvenile offenders incarcerated in a Midwest facility. Research indicates that punitive practices alone have limited success in rehabilitating criminal offenders. Restorative justice characterizes a more holistic option for addressing deviant behavior by accentuating reintegration rather than segregation for offenders. Restorative justice focuses on transformative practices that hold offenders accountable for making the necessary amends for the harm caused by their transgressions to all those influenced by the incident.

The archived data used in this study was collected from 142 male juvenile offenders using the following four instruments: the Davis Interpersonal Reactivity Index, the Heartland Forgiveness Scale, the Need Satisfaction Schedule II, and the Mechanisms of Moral Disengagement. The original purpose for the collection of this data was to create evidenced-based analysis of program interventions used within this facility and within this state. As explained in the approval letter in Appendix B, "We were intrigued with his hypotheses and allowed him to use data collected by our agency."

The primary purpose of this study was to measure whether living unit grouping and optional program attendance affect the moral disengagement attitudes of incarcerated juvenile males. A secondary purpose of this study was to measure whether attitudes of empathy and forgiveness cause mediating effects on moral disengagement.

Regression analysis was used to evaluate the contributions of six covariates on the two predictor variables noted above in predicting the juvenile offender's level of moral reasoning as measured by the Mechanisms of Moral Disengagement. Path analysis was also used to investigate the relationship of the variables.

Although the data did not substantiate statistically significant relationships between the two predictor variables and the eight dependent variables comprising moral disengagement, there were many other statistically significant relationships evidenced between the interaction between the mediator variables themselves and in association with the predictors and dependent variables.

There was partial support for limited impact of living unit grouping on moral disengagement. The mean scores for all eight subscales of moral disengagement were higher for the juvenile offenders randomly assigned to living unit groups. Two of the eight measures of moral disengagement, moral justification and dehumanization, were statistically significant. There was no statistical support that optional program attendance affected moral disengagement scores. However, optional program attendance was significantly correlated with living unit grouping and with the Perspective Taking subscore of the Empathy assessment. There were noteworthy relationships with two levels of Basic Need Satisfaction at Home and five of the eight categories of Moral Disengagement and the path analysis showed a significant relationship between Basic Need Satisfaction at Home and forgiveness.

One promising finding of this research suggested that the intentional assignment of male juvenile offenders to living units that created more homogenous communities might positively influence attitudes of moral disengagement. It would be interesting to see how scores on the Mechanisms of Moral Disengagement taken at six month intervals might have offered a better indication of how this restorative justice practice influenced these attitudes over time. Likewise, perhaps follow-up assessments of the juvenile offenders after their release might also reveal other lasting influences of this attempt to group offenders in homogenous communities.

Extensive qualitative as well as quantitative research on relationships between restorative practices, empathy, forgiveness and attitudes of moral disengagement is needed to support institutional and community efforts to reclaim juvenile offenders and assist them to become contributing members of their community.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Li, Wenling
School: TUI University
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 71/04, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Developmental psychology, Criminology
Keywords: Boys, Empathy, Forgiveness, Juvenile offenders, Moral disengagement, Restorative justice
Publication Number: 3405141
ISBN: 9781109703696
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