Religious orientation, moral development and ego identity status
Kane, Andrew Leigh
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The relationship between religious orientation, moral development, and ego identity status was studied. In this context, three groups were compared: (1) individuals with a conservative religious ideology; (2) individuals with a liberal-revisionist religious ideology; and (3) individuals with a centrist religious ideology. Three hypotheses were investigated. The first stated that the conservative group would have the strongest propensity towards what Kohlberg defines as conventional moral reasoning while the liberal group would have the strongest propensity towards Kohlberg's notion of principled moral reasoning. The second hypothesis predicted that the groups would be equally developed in terms of overall ego-identity but that identity in the specific domain of religion would differ such that the liberal group would be the most religiously achieved while the conservative group would be the most foreclosed. The third hypothesis was that all groups would have an equal representation of individuals who are intrinsically or extrinsically motivated in their religious orientation and that intrinsic motivation would interact with religious ideology such that intrinsically motivated individuals would evidence stronger group differences for moral reasoning and religious identity.;The present findings essentially support the first hypothesis. The conservative group had moral reasoning scores that were significantly lower than the other two groups though the other groups did not differ from each other. The second hypothesis was not confirmed. Religious identity status was equal for all groups though there were simple effects showing that the liberal group was more achieved than the centrist group in overall identity and the domain of occupation. The third hypothesis was also not confirmed in that the conservative group was significantly higher in intrinsic motivation than the other two groups and there was no interaction between the intrinsic-extrinsic continuum and religious ideology. There was, however, a significant correlation between high intrinsic motivation and low moral reasoning scores in the centrist group. Conceptually, the results are taken to refute two of Kohlberg's claims: (1) that religious orientation does not effect moral development and (2) that individuals invariably use the highest level of moral reasoning of which they are capable. The inherent liberal bias of Kohlberg's developmental hierarchy is also discussed and critiqued.