Adolescents' Attitudes toward the Death Penalty

Article excerpt

Lester (1987) gave a list of twenty criminal acts to college students and police officers and found that the police officers checked an average of 10.7 acts as meriting the death penalty while the college students checked 8.6. The present Study was designed in part to explore how adolescents responded to this questionnaire as compared to college students.

In other research on attitudes toward the death penalty, Starr (1983) reported that women were less in favor of capital punishment than were men, while McKelvie (1983) reported that extraversion scores were positively associated with favoring the death penalty. The present study was also designed to explore whether gender and personality predict attitudes toward the death penalty.

METHOD

A questionnaire was administered anonymously to 142 high school students at two different high schools (72 boys and 70 girls; mean age 16.7 years (SD = 0.9), and 112 college students at a state college (36 men and 76 women; mean age 23.2 years, SD = 6.0). Part one of the questionnaire contained a list of 20 criminal acts (see Table 1) for each of which the respondents were to say whether they favored capital punishment (yes or no). In addition, the subjects were administered the short form of a questionnaire to assess extraversion and neuroticism (Jensen, 1958).

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

The high school students checked an average of 11.86 criminal acts as deserving the death penalty as compared to 8.64 for the college students (t (234) = 4.76, two-tailed p [less than] .001). This difference was found for all twenty of the criminal acts (see Table 1), and statistically significant for sixteen of the acts. …

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