The primary qualitative research question that was posed is as follows: How do Latina mothers’ perceive their teenagers being affected by moral disengagement? Factors of consideration included mothers’ perceptions of teenagers’ emotional behaviors, respect for authority, school attendance, drug/alcohol use, bullying behaviors with peers and/or younger siblings, and incidences of lying. Each of the aforementioned factors plays a significant role in teenagers’ emotional behaviors, academic performance, and subsequent relationships with parents. Ten Latina mothers responded to interview questions, and the results are as follows. The findings revealed that eight out of ten mothers perceived that their teenagers presented with emotional changes characterized by anger, and one parent indicated that the emotional changes were characterized by sadness. The findings also revealed that nine out of ten Latina mothers perceived that their teenagers demonstrated decreased respect for authority figures such as parents, teachers, law enforcement officers, and adults in general, as they reached the age of maturation and became teenagers. Eight out of ten Latina mothers reported that their teenagers ditched, or were accused of ditching school. Seven Latina mothers indicated that their teenagers used drugs or alcohol, and this behavior led to aggression, violence, and/or ager among the teenagers. In relating with peers and younger siblings, six out of ten Latina mothers perceived that their teenagers engaged in bullying behaviors. Nine out of ten mothers’ reported that their teenagers lied to them about issues such as school attendance and drug use.
The overarching theme that has been revealed as a product of this qualitative study underscores a negative effect on teenagers’ emotional behaviors, academic performance, and relationships with parents as they reach the teen years. Moral disengagement is characterized by a conflict between individuals’ inherent moral principles and their demonstrated conduct (Doramajian, & Bukowski, 2015). Individuals disengage from previous self-sanctions in order that they may behave in manners that contradict their moral codes, and in doing so, they decrease the guilt that is associated with transgressions. The findings of this study are representative of Latina mothers’ perceptions of the effects of their teenagers’ moral disengagement. It is critical to emphasize that moral disengagement is often deemed acceptable among teenagers as a product of their interactions with peers that have adopted similar strategies to justify their behaviors.
“Although moral emotions provide us with feedback on our own behavior, immoral acts can be converted into personally acceptable ones through a process of moral disengagement” (Roos, Salmivalli, & Hodges, 2015, p. 31). Teenagers adopt compensatory measures based on cognitive mind frames, and distortions occur as teens experience anticipatory guilt. As a result,
they externalize all blame for their behaviors and actions and direct the blame onto others. Teens are inclined to blame their victim, as this process effectively minimizes emotional arousal. Therefore, the potential shame and guilt associated with moral disengagement is liberated from cognitive and affective self-sanctions.
The findings reveal moral disengagement at the individual level among teenagers with Latina mothers. However, it is critical to note that the self-regulation related to morality is significantly influenced by internal and external physiological factors (Gini, Pozzoli, & Bussey, 2014). According to Bandura, collective moral disengagement (CMD) is characterized by group dynamics. Justification of negative actions and behaviors is supported by a unified network of peers who share a common quest for autonomy through a developmentally premature detachment from parents in attempts to express their identities in the absence the influence of authoritative figures such as parents. This study revealed that Latina mothers perceive that their teenagers are negatively affected by moral disengagement in all facets of their lives.
- Doramajian, C., & Bukowski, W. M. (2015). A longitudinal study of the associations between
moral disengagement and active defending versus passive bystanding during bullying situations. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 61(1), 144-172.
- Gini, G., Pozzoli, T., & Bussey, K. (2014). Collective moral disengagement: Initial validation of
a scale for adolescents. European Journal Of Developmental Psychology, 11(3), 386-395. doi:10.1080/17405629.2013.851024
- Roos, S., Salmivalli, C., & Hodges, E. E. (2015). Emotion Regulation and Negative Emotionality
Moderate the Effects of Moral (Dis)Engagement on Aggression. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 61(1), 30-50.