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Lifespan differences in adult thinking about hypothetical and personal moral issues reflection or regression?



Lifespan differences in adult thinking about hypothetical and personal moral issues reflection or regression?



International Journal of Behavioral Development 10(3): 359-376



Recent work on aging and moral judgment has investigated the claim that older adults may show a regression in their average stage level of moral judgment, compared with younger groups. A second line of work has suggested that at least some elderly adults may be more reflective in their thinking regarding moral and ethical issues (e.g. Kohlberg, 1973). The present research was designed to investigate these issues with respect to hypothetical and real-life moral judgment. Subjects were 60 adults in three age groups: 18-24 years, 30-45 years, and 60-75 years. Each responded to the Kohlberg Moral Judgment Interview and to the personal moral dilemma task of Gilligan. Measures of stage level and of reported use of perspective-taking processes, as well as analyses of the content of personal dilemmas, were obtained. Results showed no average stage level differences between the age or sex groups. Hypothetical stage scores were significantly higher than real-life scores overall. There were no age differences in reported role-taking processes on hypothetical dilemmas, though there were sex differences, with men more likely to report adopting a third-party, observer role. Finally, older subjects produced significantly more varied reflections on their personal dilemmas.

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Accession: 005808698

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DOI: 10.1177/016502548701000306


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