Investigation of the moral reasoning of offending and non-offending adolescents using the Sociomoral Reflection Measure-Short Form
The body of work presented in this thesis results from an in depth investigation of the moral reasoning of male offending and male and female non-offending adolescents in the UK using the Sociomoral Reflection Measure-Short Form (Gibbs, Basinger & Fuller, 1992). In Chapter I a review of the research relevant to field of study was presented. In Chapter 2 findings from initial investigations into the patterns of moral reasoning of male offending and male and female non-offending adolescents were presented. Key aims of the studies presented in Chapter 2 were to replicate previous findings using the measure amongst offenders and non-offenders, in particular to test claims that offenders were morally immature in relation to non-offending peers, and to investigate gender differences on the measure. In line with predictions, the measure discriminated between offenders and non-offenders, with offenders having significantly lower mean scores than non-offenders. No gender differences were observed in the overall sample. However, some difficulties were found in discriminating between younger male offenders and male non-offenders. Tests of the internal characteristics of the scale were also performed. In Chapter 3, subsequent analyses of data were performed using "categorical" methods. This represented a novel means of tackling the data. A key aim was to test the Gilligan (1982) hypothesis that females and males differ in use of Stage 3 "mutual and prosocial" and Stage 4 "systemic and standard" reasoning. Results of the "categorical" analyses apparently corresponded to the Gilligan hypothesis. Patterns of intra-individual variability in moral stage use were also investigated to test claims regarding structural consistency in moral reasoning. It was found that participants were demonstrating intra-individual variability in their patterns of moral reasoning, this presented a challenge to certain aspects of the moral reasoning model. The final chapter summarised key findings to emerge from the thesis, and discussed these in theoretical context.