Adolescent moral judgement: A study of UK secondary school pupils

David Ian Walker, Stephen Thoma, Chantel Jones, Kristján Kristjánsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
10 Downloads (Pure)


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 4053 pupils aged 14–15. Data were generated in 33 UK schools of varying types between February 2013 and June 2014. Results showed that compared with US 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 school (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 date5 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017


Dive into the research topics of 'Adolescent moral judgement: A study of UK secondary school pupils'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this