Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 34, Issue 5, pp 692–708 | Cite as

The Moral Judgment of Juvenile Delinquents: A Meta-Analysis

  • Geert Jan Stams
  • Daniel Brugman
  • Maja Deković
  • Lenny van Rosmalen
  • Peter van der Laan
  • John C. Gibbs
Original Paper


A meta-analysis of 50 studies was conducted to investigate whether juvenile delinquents use lower levels of moral judgment than their nondelinquent age-mates and, if so, what factors may influence or moderate the developmental delay. The results show a lower stage of moral judgment for juvenile delinquents (d=.76). Effect sizes were large for comparisons involving male offenders, late adolescents, delinquents with low intelligence, and incarcerated delinquents. The largest effect sizes were found for period of incarceration and comparisons involving juvenile delinquents with psychopathic disorder. Production instead of recognition measures, dilemma-free assessment methods, and non-blind scoring procedures yielded relatively large effect sizes, whereas effect sizes were medium for comparisons involving delinquents with average intelligence, non-incarcerated delinquents, female offenders, as well as early and middle adolescents. Psychopathic disorder and institutionalization were identified as unique moderators of the link between moral judgment and juvenile delinquency. It is concluded that developmentally delayed moral judgment is strongly associated with juvenile delinquency, even after controlling for socioeconomic status, gender, age and intelligence.


Moral judgment Juvenile delinquency Meta-analysis Psychopathic disorder Institutionalization 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Geert Jan Stams
    • 1
  • Daniel Brugman
    • 2
  • Maja Deković
    • 2
  • Lenny van Rosmalen
    • 3
  • Peter van der Laan
    • 1
  • John C. Gibbs
    • 4
  1. 1.Faculty of Social and Behavioral SciencesUniversity of Amsterdam, Department of EducationAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Utrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Mondriaan CollegeThe HagueThe Netherlands
  4. 4.The Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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