Moral foundations in gender violence cases decided in Portuguese courts

Andreia Martinho*, Maarten Kroesen, Caspar Chorus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Gender violence encompasses a multitude of morally problematic psychological, physical, and sexual behaviors that, in most countries, constitute criminal offenses. In this study, we investigate the association between moral foundations (Care, Fairness, Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity) and punitive responses to gender violence offenses. Our case study focuses on gender violence in Portugal, a country in which these offenses are a prevalent social problem. We collected data on gender violence legal cases decided in Portuguese courts between 2002 and 2022, and we used a latent class cluster analysis model to identify the complex patterns in the data and reduce such patterns to a distinct number of clusters. Four main clusters unravel latent relations between the foundations mapped in the legal narratives and corresponding punitive responses: (i) Affirmative with suspended prison time (moral rhetoric rooted in Authority); (ii) Mixed outcomes but no prison time (moral rhetoric rooted in Sanctity); (iii) Affirmative with lengthy prison time large compensation (moral rhetoric rooted in Loyalty and Care); and (iv) Affirmative with court fines (moral rhetoric rooted in Fairness). The moral foundations provide a valuable lens to understand the problem of gender violence, but further research is needed to establish the causal mechanisms between morality and punitive responses to gender violence.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages29
JournalEuropean Journal of Criminology
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository ‘You share, we take care!’ – Taverne project Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Court
  • domestic violence
  • gender violence
  • latent class cluster analysis
  • legal cases
  • moral foundations theory
  • morality


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