Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 197–209 | Cite as

Developmental Precursors of Moral Disengagement and the Role of Moral Disengagement in the Development of Antisocial Behavior

  • Luke W. Hyde
  • Daniel S. Shaw
  • Kristin L. Moilanen


The purpose of the study was to advance our understanding of the developmental precursors of Moral Disengagement (MD) and the role of MD in the development of antisocial behavior from early risk among an ethnically diverse sample of 187 low-income boys followed prospectively from ages 1.5 to 17. Results indicated associations between early rejecting parenting, neighborhood impoverishment, and child empathy and later MD. The link between some of these early constructs and later antisocial behavior was mediated by MD. Finally, in an exploratory path model both MD and biases in social information processing were found to mediate separate paths from early risk factors to later antisocial behavior. Results were partially consistent with the notion that adolescent MD was predicted by a combination of early family, neighborhood, and child risk factors, and that MD may be a mechanism underlying some boys’ risk of antisocial behavior.


Moral disengagement Antisocial behavior Developmental psychopathology Adolescence Conduct disorder 



The research reported in this article was supported by grants to the second author from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH 50907 & MH 01666). The first author was supported by the Behavior Brain Research Training Program (GM081760). The authors would like to thank Susan B. Campbell and Edward P. Mulvey for comments on previous drafts of this manuscript, the three anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions, and the staff and study families of the Pitt Mother and Child Project for making this research possible.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luke W. Hyde
    • 1
  • Daniel S. Shaw
    • 2
  • Kristin L. Moilanen
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychology & Center for the Neural Basis of CognitionUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  3. 3.Child Development and Family Studies, Department of Technology, Learning, & CultureWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA

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