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ERIC Number: EJ906985
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 24
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 31
ISSN: ISSN-1099-839X
"It's Not My Fault": Using Neutralization Theory to Understand Cheating by Middle School Students
Zito, Nicole; McQuillan, Patrick J.
Current Issues in Education, v13 n3 2010
According to neutralization theory, to justify unethical behavior delinquents often embrace strategies that deflect personal responsibility for their actions from them and toward other persons or contextual factors outside their control. Drawing on neutralization theory, this case study explores how middle school students endorsed comparable strategies to justify cheating. Participants included six faculty members from an 8th grade teaching team and eight of their students at a competitive, private middle school in Northeastern Massachusetts. Based on interview and focus group data, we found that students adopted three of the five neutralizing strategies to rationalize what might be seen as unethical behavior: (1) denying responsibility; (2) condemning the condemner; and (3) appealing to higher ideals. Specific recommendations for schools include promoting supportive student-teacher relations and creating an academic environment in which students value course work for its inherent value, rather than solely as a means to gain admission to an elite high school.
Arizona State University, Mary Lou Fulton Institute and Graduate School of Education. Deans Office, P.O. Box 870211 Payne 108, Tempe, AZ 85287. Tel: 480-965-3306; Fax: 480-965-6231; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Grade 8; Middle Schools
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Massachusetts