Pyschosocial Barriers to Undergraduate Students' Moral Judgment

Thumbnail Image
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
University of Alabama Libraries

Historically, higher education has had a significant impact on an individual’s moral development due to multiple social and cognitive factors suggested for promoting growth (Rest, 1986; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991, King & Mayhew, 2002). Yet, more recent studies have evidenced a decline in advanced reasoning scores amongst undergraduate students compared to previous generations with little attention to potential factors that contribute to these trends. In order to address declining moral reasoning scores, this study was designed to identify potential psychosocial barriers that may hinder an individual’s moral development in college. Using a quantitative, exploratory research design, this study looked at the ways in which symptoms of trait anxiety and depression may interfere with a student’s ability to fully engage in the collegiate experience, and therefore engage in the types of opportunities that may support their moral growth. Findings demonstrated a weak but unique relationship between moderate levels of anxiety and a prioritization of reasoning that relies on laws and norms when considering social cooperation, even when controlling for depression. However, there was no evidence of the effects of anxiety evidenced for any other levels of moral reasoning. Future studies may seek to expound upon these findings by attending to various personal characteristics of students’ experiences as well as examining other types of moral judgement reasoning.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation