Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Dr. Herbert Saltzstein

Subject Categories



Developmental Psychology, Moral Development


This research examined adolescents' and young adults' practical moral judgments, specifically their unique moral thinking in two interpersonal moral dilemmas. The basic philosophical frameworks (deontological and consequentialist principles) were employed as tools for psychological analysis. In Study 1, 42 preliminary groups of adolescents and young adults (14-16 years and 18-21 years) provided moral dilemmas that they had experienced during a past year. Among 42 dilemmas, two dilemmas (the homework and the video dilemmas), including different types of conflicting moral issues, were selected as materials for Study 2. In Study 2, 234 participants (76 aged 14-16, 90 aged 18-19, and 68 aged 20-21) resolved the two moral dilemmas on the paper-based questionnaire, in which questions were framed into two ways. Thus, the participants provided 1) their spontaneous decisions and its reasoning from perspectives of imagined moral agents and 2) their choices from nine fixed reasoning alternatives. The different types of moral dilemmas and the differently framed questions elicited age- and/or gender-related trends of young people's moral judgments. Selected interesting results include: 1) The female participants showed a unique decision style: "restructuring" the moral dilemmas/situations, and 2) The participants showed their relativistic thinking only when they were asked to select from nine reasoning alternatives, and relativistic thinking was evidenced more in younger (aged 18-19) female college students. Age- and gender-related developmental implications were further proposed.

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