Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Psychology, Ph.D.

First Advisor

Donna J. Habenicht

Second Advisor

Lenore S. Brantley

Third Advisor

Wilfred G.A. Futcher


Problem. Although moral development research has focused extensively on Kohlberg's moral judgment theory and Gilligan's considerations of moral orientation, little has directly addressed the issue of integration of the voices of care and justice. This study proposed that, with maturation, a more integrated moral orientation would guide moral decision making. Integration and the impact of age, gender, ego maturity, and religious commitment were examined from a developmental perspective.

Method. A cross-sectional design was employed, with adults from two age cohorts (25-35 and 50-65). A semi-structured interview (Brown, Debold, Tappan, & Gilligan, 1991) was used to collect data. Each individual also completed a demographic information survey, the Sentence Completion Test for Ego Development (Loevinger, Wessler, & Redmore, 1970), and a Religious Commitment Survey (Anderson, 1995; Dudley, 1992). Data were qualitatively analyzed for moral orientation, religious motivation, definitions of morality, and contextual factors. Hypotheses were tested using Chi-square, the t-test for means of two independent groups, ANOVA, and Multiple Regression Analysis.

Results and Conclusions. In a sample of 82 individuals from a religious (Seventh-day Adventist) population, 28 showed an integrated moral orientation, while 23 were justice-oriented and 31 were care-oriented. The integrated subjects emphasized compassion and forgiveness in their dilemmas. Most participants related current or recent conflicts. Concerns in close relationships were more common than work-related dilemmas. There were no gender or age differences between younger and older adults who showed integration. Among those non-integrated, males were significantly more justice-oriented and females more care-oriented (p = .03). Overall religious commitment differentiated the integrated moral orientation from a justice orientation (p = .04). Positive religious experience distinguished the integrated from the non-integrated (p = .04). Both the integrated and the care-oriented showed a higher level of devotional practices than did the justice-oriented (p = .01). No statistically significant relationship was observed between moral orientation and ego maturity. However, qualitative analysis revealed a steady increase in integration with ego maturation. No linear combination of age, gender, religious commitment, and ego maturity predicted an integrated moral orientation. The major contribution of this study highlighted the impact of personal religious commitment on moral maturity. Recommendations were made for further study.

Subject Area

Commitment (Psychology)--Religious aspects, Ego (Psychology), Ethics.


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