Stage structure in objective moral judgments

Mark L. Davison, Stephen Robbins, David B. Swanson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Analyzed the responses of 160 junior high, senior high, undergraduate, and graduate students to the Defining Issues Test, which measures Kohlbergian moral developments. The study was designed to investigate whether stage and item scores displayed the structure expected of variables that measure a hierarchical, personality-development sequence. Consistent with expectations, (a) the intercorrelations of stage scores displayed a simplex-like structure; (b) factor loadings for stage scores approximated a 2-factor, semicircular configuration with variables ordered by stage along the semicircle; and (c) along the 1st scaling dimension, variables were ordered by stage and persons were ordered by age. The pattern of the stage scores was consistent with the ordering of stages in L. Kohlberg's (1969) theory, except that Stage 2 reasons were assigned more importance by some Ss than would be expected from their position in the developmental sequence. The observed structure of the moral judgments is interpreted as evidence for a hierarchical sequence partially consistent with the one in Kohlberg's theory. (29 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-146
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 1978


  • stage structure, objective moral judgments, junior high & high school & college & graduate students


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