Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology


School Psychology



First Advisor

Robert B. Germain


Moral development has been conceptualized in terms of simple and complex stage models. This study was aimed at comparing and evaluating these two models to determine which most adequately addresses the construct. Seventy college undergraduates were administered the Defining Issues Test (DIT) as a measure of moral reasoning. An analysis of their DIT protocols for response variation showed that a full range of reasoning was used to address each moral situation, supporting a complex stage orientation. This study was also designed to explore personal/situational factors which contribute to this variability in reason fog. Fifteen of the original 70 subjects were used for a follow-up interview. This revealed that severity of story consequences and personal relevance of the story theme were significant contributors to response variation. A complex stage orientation seems to be the most adequate way to conceptualize moral development, due to the degree of stage mixture noted in this study. This study revealed, however, that numerous methodological considerations need to be resolved before we can implement the complex stage morel in the assessment of moral reasoning and design of moral education programs.



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