Moral judgment, personality, and attitude to authority in early and late adolescence

Daniel K. Lapsley, Michael R. Harwell, Leanne M. Olson, Daniel Flannery, Stephen M. Quintana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to examine the personological features of moral judgment and to determine the extent to which principled moral reasoning is politically biased. We also attempted to determine the relation between moral judgment and attitude to authority and the developmental patterning of attitude to authority from early to late adolescence. Attitude to authority was assessed in terms of specific sources of authority (mother, father, police, government) and by the Attitude to Authority Scale, which assesses attitudes along the liberal-conservative political continuum. The conservative personality syndrome was assessed by the Conservatism Scale, while moral judgment was assessed by the Defining Issues Test. The results indicated that moral reasoning is unrelated to attitudes to specific sources of authority and negatively related to political conservatism and to conservative personality features. Attitudes toward sources of personal authority (mother, father) were more similar than attitudes toward impersonal authority (police, government), though attitudes toward Father were related to attitudes toward Government and Police. Age trends showed that younger adolescents are more politically conservative and more conforming to authority than older adolescents. Results are discussed in terms of the political and personological features of Kohlbergian moral judgment and in light of recent research on the transformation of adolescent-parent relations in adolescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)527-542
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Youth and Adolescence
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 1984

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Moral judgment, personality, and attitude to authority in early and late adolescence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this