Honors Theses and Capstones

Date of Award

Spring 2012

Project Type

Senior Honors Thesis

College or School




Program or Major


First Advisor

Ellen Cohn


One of the most baffling questions in delinquency literature is why some adolescents engage in these rule-violating behaviors while others refrain. Some researchers have found support for a link between moral reasoning and rule-violating behaviors (Blasi, 1980). The legal socialization model includes legal attitudes as the mediator between the two (Cohn, Bucolo, Rebellon & Van Gundy, 2010). In the current two studies, the researchers tested a moral socialization model with wrongfulness and approval as mediators based on data from middle and high school students as well as college students. In the first study, the model was tested longitudinally with middle and high school students. Support was found for full mediation across assault, stealing, and substance behaviors. In the second study, where the model was tested cross-sectionally with college students, the results only showed support for a direct relation between moral reasoning and stealing behaviors. In the second study the researchers also found support for full mediation across all three types of behaviors (assault, stealing and substance). The results of the two studies suggested that moral reasoning might already be well established in college students and as a result, their attitudes might be better predictors of their engagement in rule-violating behavior. The different interpretations of wrongfulness are discussed.