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Exploring Moral Situations, Moral Emotions, and Moral Self as Predictors of Juvenile Delinquents' Global Self-Esteem: Implications for Moral Education and Adolescent Shoplifting

NCJ Number
Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice Volume: 4 Issue: 4 Dated: October 2006 Pages: 345-367
William Scott Forney; Christy Crutsinger; Judith Cardona Forney
Date Published
October 2006
23 pages
This study explored whether the consequences of a shoplifting experience was a moral situational driver of immature or mature emotional response and further investigated the effect of moral situational drivers on emotions and as predictors of self-esteem in adolescents.
Results indicated that the experience of shoplifting was a situational driver and a predictor of early adolescent moral emotions. The shoplifting experience itself generated immature moral emotions, while the experience of getting caught shoplifting evoked mature moral emotions. This mature moral response may be explained by the law of apparent reality which stipulates that emotions are evoked by events that result in an unsuccessful action, such as getting caught while shoplifting. The moral emotional response of adolescents who got caught suggests that the adolescents did not meet their own moral standards. Other findings revealed that moral situational drivers, moral emotions, and moral self-esteem were significantly related to adolescent global self-esteem. Likewise, mature moral emotions predicted positive self-acceptance among older adolescents, which underscored the importance of moral development in facilitating positive self-esteem. The implications of the findings for moral education and shoplifting prevention programming are considered and include the recommendation to integrate anti-shoplifting programming into standard school operations. Participants were 85 first-time juvenile shoplifting offenders who were participants in a court-supported shoplifting and theft diversion program. Participants completed self-administered surveys at the beginning of each bimonthly diversion program meeting. Surveys measured moral emotion, moral self, self-esteem, and probed whether the shoplifting experience functioned as a moral situational driver. A content analysis of the data indicated 208 emotional responses that were generated by the 4 moral situational drivers. Data analysis also involved the use of chi-square calculations and multiple regression models. Future research should focus on cultural differences in the emotional response to shoplifting. Tables, figures, references