Kimberly Balcer

Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

John O’Connor, Harry Robe, Sam McFarland


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Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


The theoretical and empirical relationships of Kohlberg’s typology of moral development and personality characteristics were reviewed. Rest’s Defining Issues Test was used to measure moral development and to categorize 84 individuals into one of three levels of moral development.

The Edwards Personal Preference Schedule and the Abstract Orientation Scale were also administered to assess the personality variables of deference, autonomy, intraception, and abstractness. Three problems were tested: 1) the 42 adults would demonstrate higher levels of moral development than the 42 undergraduate college students, 2) a test of a personal trait theory of moral character, and 3) a test of personality structure in moral development.

Analysis of adult and student levels of moral development did not reveal that adults were generally at higher levels of moral development than students. Though more students were at the high level of moral development, the two samples were not significantly different.

The test of personality trait theory of moral character involved analyzing the Edwards Personal Preference Schedule and the Abstract Orientation Scale for the three levels of moral development on the Defining Issues Test. This analysis failed to demonstrate consistent, significant differences between the levels of moral development. The personality trait theory was rejected because of the inability to explain moral development.

A discriminant analysis demonstrated differences between the personality schema of individuals at different levels of moral development. Though the differences were not statistically significant, definite trends were noted. This model of personality variables correctly predicted 41.67 percent of all subjects into Rest’s three levels of moral development, though purely random prediction would correctly classify 33 percent. This evidence suggests the importance of personality structure in the development of moral reasoning.


Comparative Psychology | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences