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Transcendence and the moral self : identity integration, religion orientation, and moral life Maclean, A. Michael

Abstract

Kohlberg's stage model of moral reasoning is able to account for some of the variability in moral behavior, yet much remains unexplained. Recently, a number of components of personality have been proposed as bridging the gap between moral cognition and moral behavior, including that of identity. Kohlberg also theorized moral behavior as being based on transcendent or religious meaning, especially at the highest stages of moral reasoning. The present study is an investigation of the role that identity integration and religious orientation may have in leading to moral behavior. A sample of 60 undergraduates was assessed on identity integration, religious orientation, and level of moral reasoning, as well as moral behavior, using a self-report measure of altruism. A measure of socially desirable responding was used to account for the degree to which altruism scores may have been tainted by impression management. Identity integration, an intrinsic religious orientation, moral reasoning and self-report altruism were all positively related to one another. A regression analysis yielded a model with moral reasoning as the only predictor of altruistic behavior, implying that it is the integration of moral knowledge into identity that accounts for the relations between identity and moral reasoning. The discussion focuses on this relationship, and the relations between identity integration and an intrinsic religious orientation, suggesting that the intrinsic religious scale is a measure of identity integration in the religious domain.

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