Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Sam McFarland, John O'Connor, Elsie Dotson

Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


The present research is an idiographic study of the moral development of six individuals at the highest stage of morality, Kohlberg's (1958, 1976) stage six. The subjects range in age from an 83 year old retired geography professor to a 21 year old bright college senior. The life of each individual was examined through a three to four hour semi-structured interview. Questions were designed to cover a wide spectrum of the individual's life, such as early family influences, religion, critical life events, and influential people and writers, while affording each subject the opportunity to tell his or her own story. The results are presented as case studies. Commonalities between subjects are discussed and related to Kohlberg's theory.

The individual differences are impressive, although there are some commonalities. The subjects' backgrounds ranged from growing up in a southern, rural village to early life in a large northeastern city. The childhood homes and environments of each subject were also different. One home was described as a "concentration camp," while another was characterized as loving and supportive. In the development of their respective moral philosophies, some subjects drew upon the writings of unique writers, such as Emerson and Thoreau, while others drew upon religious teachings, communal experiences and drug experimentation. Generally, however, the subjects evidence a strong religious background and influence. They have achieved ego identity. They generally have liberal political outlooks. Concern for others is central in their moral philosophies. On the 16-PF, the subjects tend to be tender-minded, imaginatve, intelligent and self-assured.


Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences

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Psychology Commons