Anglia Ruskin University
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The Combined Roles of Moral Emotion and Moral Rules in Explaining Acts of Violence Using a Situational Action Theory Perspective

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posted on 2023-08-30, 16:19 authored by Neema Trivedi-Bateman
The roles of shame and guilt, and their relationships to empathy, have not been modeled adequately as key factors in moral decision-making in the study of violence. The role of moral emotion has been neglected in existing criminological research and this study seeks to develop current explanations of the comprehensive myriad of factors that play a role in moral crime decision-making. This research will test the different roles of empathy, shame, and guilt in violence decision-making using a situational action theory (SAT) perspective. Data taken from the Peterborough Adolescent and Young Adult Development Study (PADS+), a longitudinal study with a large representative sample, provide quantitative questionnaire indices to enable comparison of a persistent and frequent violent offender subsample (N = 48) with the remaining PADS+ study sample (N = 607). A striking majority of violent offenders report that they do not think it is wrong to commit violence, and do not care about it, that is, they lack shame and guilt, and report that violence comes as a morally acceptable and natural action alternative. Furthermore, violent offenders do not register the predicament of their victims; there is a distinct lack of empathy. This article demonstrates a key finding which has rarely been explored to date; regression analyses reveal an interaction effect whereby individuals with weak shame and guilt, combined specifically with weak moral rules, are more likely to commit acts of violence. The study findings provide strong support for the SAT of the role of weak morality in violence decision-making. To reduce the possibility of crime being seen as an action alternative, moral development programs should be developed and administered in childhood.



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Journal of Interpersonal Violence





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  • Accepted version


  • eng

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Faculty of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences


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