Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Previous research in the cognitive developmental approach to moral judgment has been to delineate changes occurring with age in the person's understanding and interpretation of moral rules. Recently, the Defining Issues Test of moral judgment has been used as an objective, standardized measure due to its quantitative description of the developmental process. A systematic exploration of the importance of previous life experiences and their impacts upon the individual's moral judgment has not been reported in the literature.

The current study investigated the association between subjects' use of principled moral judgment with their previous life experiences, and with the perceived impact of those life experiences. A mixed sample consisting of one hundred thirty subjects completed a modified Social Readjustment Rating Scale and the Defining Issues Test. Results suggest that experienced impact of life events, perceived impact of life events, and the total number of life events experienced are not correlated with subjects' usage of principled moral judgment. Two factor-score variables and the analysis of the contribution of individual life experiences suggests that important experiences centered around interpersonal relationships are associated with more frequent use of principled moral judgment. Implications of this result and suggestions for further research are discussed.