An analysis of adolescent male and female responses to Kohlberg's moral interview: Using two different editions of the Standard Issue Scoring Manual (1979 vs. 1987)

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Teaching and Leadership


Gerald M. Mager


Kohlberg Moral Judgment Interview, gender differences, boys, girls, moral development

Subject Categories

Curriculum and Instruction


Early research in the area of Kohlberg's six stages of cognitive moral development theory originally led to the conclusion that men and women operated at different stages of moral development. For almost twenty years researchers have asked why women's moral development tends to be score at stage 3 interpersonal harmony and men at stage 4 law and order. Since the original findings in 1969 by Kohlberg and Kramer, several different explanations have been offered to explain this phenomena.

Walker (1983) and Kohlberg (1984) stated this paradox resulted from the insensitivities inherent in earlier scoring systems which were corrected in the 1987 Revised Scoring Manual. This study examined this claim by comparing the scores derived from two different editions of the Kohlberg Standard Issue Scoring Manual 1979 vs. 1987.

Seventy high school students (14-18) were administered the Kohlberg Moral Judgment Interview (MJI). The sample consisted of 35 males and 35 females. The protocols were transcribed and coded to prevent the researcher from knowing the gender of the responses during the scoring process. The research first scored the protocols using the 1979 manual and then several years later rescored them a second time using the 1987 manual.

The researcher found evidence that the 1987 manual revised and increased the number of the criterion judgments used in determining stages of moral development. Of the 70 protocols scored, 48 percent of the subjects' level of moral reasoning changed from the scores determined by the 1979 manual to the scores determined by the 1987 manual. In the female sub-group, 40 percent of the protocols changed and in the male sub-group, 57 percent of the protocols changed. Correlation studies revealed a.73 relationship between the scores determined between the two manuals. In this sample the following stages showed the greatest changes: transitional stage 2 (3) and 3.

Each genders' responses were also analyzed for usage of moral elements. Under the standard issue scoring system these elements represented four different moral orientations. Gender differences were found only with those elements listed under the philosophy of Normative Order. In this sample, males more frequently used those elements related to blame as a justification for determining the morally right action.


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