Moral reasoning and children's classroom behavior


ABSTRACT The relationship between level of moral reasoning and classroom behavior was investigated in sixth and eighth grade children. Moral reasoning was measured using the Defining Issues Test (Rest, 1979). Classroom behavior was evaluated by teacher ratings using an abbreviated version of the Revised Behavior Problem Checklist (Quay & Peterson, 1987). In addition, students were presented with a list of 15 behaviors ranging from antisocial to prosocial activities. Using a 7-point Likert-type scale, they rated these behaviors according to how "good" or "bad" they considered each behavior to be. Students also used a 7-point Likert-type scale to rate these same behaviors on the basis of what consequence they believed each behavior deserved, ranging from extreme reward to extreme punishment. Teachers also completed these measures in order to assess the degree of correspondence between the behavioral evaluations of teachers and students. Moral reasoning was not found to correlate significantly with teachers' ratings of the severity and number of classroom behavior problems exhibited by each student. Likewise, no significant relationship was found between moral reasoning and age. There was no significant relationship discovered between gender and conduct, nor was there a significant Grade x Gender interaction found for severity or number of behavior problems. Concerning the opinion surveys, it was found that students with lower levels of moral reasoning differed significantly more from teachers' ratings of neutral behaviors than did students with higher levels of moral reasoning. Students with different levels of moral reasoning were not found to differ significantly in the amount of individual consistency shown in ratings across the two opinion surveys. Finally, a Discriminant Analysis revealed that of the variables studied, race, the "U" score, GPA, Stage 3 morality, and absences provided the greatest predictive strength in grouping children according to behavior ratings. It was concluded from these results that even if the DIT does in fact measure moral development, it is not useful for predicting conduct, at least not for sixth and eighth graders.


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Graduation Date





Wang, Alvin Y.


Master of Science (M.S.)


College of Arts and Sciences






77 p.



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Masters Thesis (Open Access)




Arts and Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic; Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Sciences

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