Introduction to the Special Issue : Moral Disengagement and Aggression in Children and Youth

Hymel, Shelley;
Pädagogische Hochschule Thurgau
Perren, Sonja

Albert Bandura’s social cognitive theory of moral agency was developed in order to explain how adults with seemingly well-established moral standards can engage in inhumane and egregious behavior against others without apparent self-recrimination. Over the past decade, a growing body of research has explored the applicability of his theory in understanding aggressive behavior among children and youth, with consistent demonstration of links between aggression and one’s tendency to morally disengage, justifying or rationalizing such behavior through a number of different cognitive mechanisms. Expanding on these initial studies, this article introduces a special issue of Merrill-Palmer Quarterly that includes nine empirical articles investigating the individual and situational characteristics, socialization factors, and developmental pathways that underlie the links between moral disengagement and aggression in children and youth, with a final commentary that critically evaluates the contributions of these articles and raises further questions for future research.


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