The Longitudinal Relations between Religiosity, Moral Disengagement, and Offending in Serious Adolescent Offenders
Cardwell, Stephanie Michelle
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Much prior research has found that religiosity is negatively related to crime. Still, less is known about the mechanisms that govern this relationship, especially among offending populations. One theory that can offer more insight into the religiosity—crime nexus is moral disengagement (MD). No research has addressed how the theory can explain the relationship between religiosity and crime. Additionally, less is known about how these relationships change over time. In order to address these topics data from the Pathways to Desistance study was utilized. Religiosity, as measured by the importance of religion and religious service attendance, decreased slightly throughout the study. Both of these measures were also predictive of lower levels of MD over time. Higher religious service attendance at baseline was associated with higher levels of self-reported offending over time while the importance of religion was related to lower self-reported offending over time. Religiosity was protective of self-reported offending longitudinally among male but not female respondents. Finally, MD partly mediated the relationship between religiosity and self-reported offending throughout most of the study. Overall, these results indicate that religion plays a role in the lives of the serious adolescent offenders in the study.