Date of Award

Fall 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Interdisciplinary Studies and Professional Development

Committee Chair

Cyndi Gaudet

Committee Chair School

Interdisciplinary Studies and Professional Development

Committee Member 2

Heather Annulis

Committee Member 2 School

Interdisciplinary Studies and Professional Development

Committee Member 3

Dale Lunsford

Committee Member 3 School

Interdisciplinary Studies and Professional Development

Committee Member 4

Quincy Brown

Committee Member 4 School

Interdisciplinary Studies and Professional Development


Despite a renewed emphasis on ethics programs across the Department of Defense (DOD) since 2007, the number of senior officer ethical failures increased by 13% from 2015 to 2017 (Copp, 2017). If the trend of ethical failures and misconduct continue, the military faces a further decline in public confidence (DoDOIG, 2017). The 2017 DOD Inspector General report noted the trend of senior leader ethical failures might foster negative public perceptions regarding military leader’s overall dedication, sacrifice, ethics, and character (DoDOIG, 2017).

A review of military literature revealed the importance of mentorship and self-development in professional development; however, gaps between formal ethics education programs average between 8 to 10 years (Behn, 2016; Air Force Model, 2004; Army leadership, 2012; Navy leader development, 2017). During these lengthy gaps in formal training, self-development and mentorship as part of the service’s overarching leadership development programs, serve as potential ethical development methods in which moral judgment development is a key component.

The current study is supported by Bandura’s (1986) social learning theory, Knowles’ (1984) adult learning theory, Rest’s (1986) 4-component model of moral development, and Richard Swanson’s human resource development theory (Swanson & Holton, 2009). The theoretical framework supports the study’s measurement of self-development and mentorship on moral judgment as perceived by senior military officers at one of three military war colleges. Respondents (N = 63) were administered demographic, self-development, and mentorship surveys. Additionally, respondents were administered the Defining Issues Test Version Two (DIT-2) to determine moral judgment score (N2). Multiple linear regression was used to determine the relationship between the perceived influence of self-development, mentorship, and moral judgment among senior military officers (N = 63). Results determined significant relationships between both self-development and moral judgment, and mentorship and moral judgment.

Senior military leadership can take advantage of these findings by promoting ethical self-development and mentorship across the force. Future considerations include replicating this study with a larger sample size through random sampling that includes senior military officer war college graduates to enrich validity and provide generalization to the larger military population.