Moral disengagement in UK public discourse around sexual crime

Harper, Craig (2015) Moral disengagement in UK public discourse around sexual crime. In: Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA) 34th Annual Conference, 14-17 October 2015, Le Centre Sheraton Hotel, Montreal, QC, Canada.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive


Media reporting of controversial issues seek to reflect and shape public opinion. In this presentation, I will explore the role of the British national press in guiding social discourse around sexual offending. Data are drawn from several studies, which examine the linguistic underpinnings of newspaper stories about convicted cases of sexual crime, and the links between newspaper readership and attitudes towards individuals who have committed sexual offenses in the UK. Contrary to popular sentiment, no significant linguistic differences were found between tabloid-style and ‘quality’ broadsheet publications in relation to the linguistic makeup of articles on this issue. However, tabloids were found to use much more offensive descriptors for the perpetrators of sexual crimes within article headlines. Further, data from several studies are discussed, which link tabloid readership to negative attitudes towards ‘sexual offenders’. These findings are combined and explained using moral disengagement theory. Ongoing research looking at this theoretical account of public discourse will also be discussed.

Keywords:sex offending, public attitudes, moral disengagement, atsa 2015, social psychology
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C800 Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C830 Experimental Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C810 Applied Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C880 Social Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C890 Psychology not elsewhere classified
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Psychology
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ID Code:19744
Deposited On:06 Dec 2015 16:13

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