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Moral disengagement among children and youth: A meta-analytic review of links to aggressive behavior



A growing body of research has demonstrated consistent links between Bandura's theory of moral disengagement and aggressive behavior in adults. The present meta-analysis was conducted to summarize the existing literature on the relation between moral disengagement and different types of aggressive behavior among school-age children and adolescents. Twenty-seven independent samples with a total of 17,776 participants (aged 8–18 years) were included in the meta-analysis. Results indicated a positive overall effect (r = .28, 95% CI [.23, .32]), supporting the hypothesis that moral disengagement is a significant correlate of aggressive behavior among children and youth. Analyses of a priori moderators revealed that effect sizes were larger for adolescents as compared to children, for studies that used a revised version of the original Bandura scale, and for studies with shared method variance. Effect sizes did not vary as a function of type of aggressive behavior, gender, or publication status. Results are discussed within the extant literature on moral disengagement and future directions are proposed. Aggr. Behav. 40:56–68, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.