Perceived Police Injustice, Moral Disengagement, and Aggression Among Juvenile Offenders: Utilizing the General Strain Theory Model


Although many juvenile offenders report experiencing police injustice, few studies have examined how this source of strain may impact youths’ behavioral outcomes, including risk for future recidivism. This study begins to address that gap in the literature. We applied the general strain theory as our theoretical framework to examine the interactive effect of perceived police injustice and moral disengagement on juvenile aggressive behavior. Our sample included 95 juvenile offenders who completed questionnaires on measures of perceived police injustice and moral disengagement. Results supported our hypothesis, such that moral disengagement predicted past month aggression among juvenile offenders, but only by youth who reported mean and high levels of perceived police injustice. While more research is needed in this area, this study’s findings underscore the need to address both perceived police engagement and moral disengagement among youth at-risk of engaging in delinquent behaviors. Implications for intervention programs are also presented.

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Correspondence to Tamika C. B. Zapolski.

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Zapolski, T.C.B., Banks, D.E., Lau, K.S.L. et al. Perceived Police Injustice, Moral Disengagement, and Aggression Among Juvenile Offenders: Utilizing the General Strain Theory Model. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev 49, 290–297 (2018).

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  • Policing
  • Aggression
  • Moral disengagement
  • Juvenile offenders