Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

A Cross-Sectional Examination of Levels of Moral Reasoning in a Sample of Kuwait University Faculty Members

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

A Cross-Sectional Examination of Levels of Moral Reasoning in a Sample of Kuwait University Faculty Members

Article excerpt

This cross-cultural study was conducted to examine the moral reasoning of a sample of full time faculty members at Kuwait University. Eighty-six participants completed Rest's Defining Issues Test (DIT) which measures percentage of principled moral reasoning indexed as P% -score. The analysis of the results showed that the obtained P-% score was lower than the norms reported in the published research on Western subjects. Overall, the stages were not significantly related to age or discipline of the participants. Discussions of the present findings were made in line with the recent research on moral development calling for a reorientation of the psychology of morality, which has been predominantly based on the cognitive developmental paradigm for a number of decades.

Keywords: faculty members; Kuwait University; Defining Issues Test; moral reasoning; cognitive development.

Kohlberg's (1969) theory of moral development is one of the most widely used approaches to the examination of moral reasoning. Extending the work of Piaget, Kohlberg argued that an individual's moral reasoning developed through an invariant sequence of universal levels of moral judgment with each level representing a qualitatively more sophisticated way of understanding the moral world than the previous one (Kohlberg, 1984).

In recent years a growing body of cross-cultural research studies has been conducted to examine the validity of Kohlberg's universal claims regarding moral reasoning development (Comunian & Gielen, 1995; Gielen & Ahmad, 1987). Although this claim to universality has been disputed (e.g., Parikh, 1980; Simpson, 1974), Snarey's (1985) review of 45 cross-cultural studies based on the Kohlberg model finds striking support for many of its underlying assumptions, for example, invariant stage sequence, full range of stages, general applicability of the stages, and universal moral concepts.

Although a growing body of cross-cultural research, using the Defining Issues Test (DIT), has been conducted in a variety of non-Western societies to test the universality claims of Kohlberg, only a moderate amount of that cross-cultural research has been attempted in Muslim societies (Bouhmama, 1984, 1990; Gielen, Ahmed, & Avellani, 1992; Ismail, 1976; Maqsud, 1977). Prior research on faculty members using this measure has been largely confined to Western countries (Johnston, 1989; Johnston & Lubomudrov, 1987; Maccalum, 1993; Yeazell & Johnston, 1988). No research has been reported on the moral reasoning of faculty members from Middle Eastern countries.

The purpose of the present study was to examine the moral reasoning levels of a sample of Kuwait University faculty members representing a range of ages (28-62), from a cognitive developmental perspective. Specifically, two research questions were addressed in the present research:

1. What are the patterns of moral reasoning levels of Kuwait University faculty members as measured by the Defining Issues test (DIT), with relation to age?

2. Does moral reasoning differ among faculty members according to their discipline?



The sample consisted of 86 full time faculty members, all holding a PhD and coming from 4 disciplines at Kuwait University: Arts (n=18), Education (n=23), Islamic Studies (n=19), and Sciences (n=26). All were Muslim males aged between 28 - 62 (mean age =29.42 years). The preliminary sample comprised 92 participants, but 6 questionnaires (5.52%) were discarded because of inconsistencies.


A short version of Rest's Defining Issues Test (DIT) was used in the present study (Rest, 1990). It included the following three stories: "Heinz and the Drug", "The Doctor's Dilemma", and "Escaped Prisoner".

The DIT is scored objectively. As such, statistical reliability and validity can be fairly assessed. Generally, test-retest reliability for the P% score is in the high . …

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