Adolescent Moral Judgement: A Study of United Kingdom Secondary School Pupils

David Walker, Stephen Thoma, Chantel Jones, Kristján Kristjánsson

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15 Citations (Scopus)
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Despite a recent world-wide upsurge of academic interest in moral and character education, little is known about pupils’ character development in schools, especially in the UK context. The authors used a version of the Intermediate Concept Measure for Adolescents, involving dilemmas, to assess an important component of character – moral judgement – among 4,053 pupils aged 14–15. Data were generated in 31 UK schools of varying types between February 2013 and June 2014. Results showed that compared to USA samples, the pupils’ scores were, on average, low, suggestive of tendencies towards ‘self-interest’, ‘not getting involved’ and ‘conformity/loyalty to friends’. Judgements varied by subscales assessing ‘action’ and ‘justification’ choices; pupils more successfully identified good actions than good justifications, but generally struggled more to successfully identify poor actions and poor justifications. Highest scores were for a dilemma emphasising ‘self-discipline’ and lowest for ‘honesty’, with ‘courage’ in-between. Overall average results were significantly and positively associated with being female, having (and practising) a religion, and doing specific extra-curricular activities. Differences in schools were also noted, although the kinds of schools (e.g., public/private; religious/secular) were unrelated to student scores.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)588-607
JournalBritish Educational Research Journal
Issue number3
Early online date20 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2017


  • character
  • UK schools
  • moral
  • ethical
  • adolescence


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