Moral Reasoning and Religious Belief: does content influence structure?

Journal of Moral Education 27 (1):89-98 (1998)
Abstract Kohlberg's theory of moral development draws a distinction between content and structure of moral thought. An inference based on this distinction is that content and structure are independent. To investigate this inference, we studied fourth?and eighth?grade students in two distinct educational settings in the United States. Sample 1 contained 83 students attending a church?sponsored, evangelical Christian school. Sample 2 contained 60 students attending government?supported public schools. Students were administered Kohlberg's moral dilemmas of life versus law, punishment versus conscience, and authority versus contract. Christian school students made more religious references in resolving dilemmas. More Christian than public school students favoured law, punishment and authority. More importantly, regardless of the school attended, students who used religious terminology to resolve dilemmas were less likely to reason in Kohlberg's Stage 2 than those who did not. Grade differences emerged. Regardless of terminology, most fourth?grade students used some Stage 2 reasoning. However, among eighth?grade students, using religious terminology correlated with less Stage 2 reasoning. The results of our study raise doubts as to the independence of structure and content
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DOI 10.1080/0305724980270106
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