Date of Award

Spring 3-31-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Forensic Psychology



First Advisor

Elizabeth Jeglic

Second Reader

Cynthia Calkins

Third Advisor

Timothy Luke


Expectations of how family and friends are supposed to treat children may influence decision- making in child sexual abuse cases. These expectations can be understood from a moral code and moral violation perspective, such that broken moral codes formed by society can elicit negative emotions resulting in moral hypervigilance. Moral hypervigilance is the need to mediate the negative emotions elicited by the moral code violations with action, such as deciding the length of sentencing for a person who the moral code. This study examined the impact of relational closeness and victim gender on the length of sentencing for child sexual abuse cases. Mock jurors (N=237) read one of eight mock trial transcripts. The cases varied in the level of relational closeness to the victim (biological parent, aunt/uncle, a family friend, or stranger) and the gender of the victim/ perpetrator. Data revealed that cases with female victims elicited a longer sentence and more experienced negative emotions than the cases with male victims, and that relational closeness did not affect length of sentencing or experienced negative emotions. These findings will be discussed in light of the moral violation and how this impacts jury decision making in cases of child sexual abuse.



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