Moral Development and Black Racial Identity Attitude Development

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Mark M. Leach

Advisor Department



This study examined the relationship between the moral development and the racial identity development of African American college students. Also, this study explored whether students reasoned differently about moral issues when the race in the dilemmas was a denoted and if differences were related to racial identity attitudes. Scores from 182 African American undergraduate and graduate students were analyzed for this study. Although, all students were administered the Black Racial Identity Attitude Scale (RIAS-B), one third of the participants were administered the Anonymous/Standard version of Defining Issues Test (DIT) while the other students took a revised form of the DIT in which the race of the central character in the moral dilemmas was identified either as Black or White. Results indicated that significant relationships existed between scores on moral reasoning and Black racial identity attitudes. In addition, there were no significant differences in how African American students reasoned about moral dilemmas when the race of the central character was identified as Black, White, or Anonymous. Furthermore, no significant differences were found between the correlations of Preencounter scores and moral development scores in the White and Anonymous versions of the DIT. Similarly, results of no differences between the correlations of Immersion/Emersion scores and moral development scores in the White and Anonymous versions of the DIT also were found. This study indicated that the cognitive constructs of moral development are related to Black racial identity attitudes. Thus, the racial development of students was associated with their moral growth. Also, the findings of this study suggested when African American students make decisions in moral dilemmas that their moral reasoning was not affected by the race of the person in the dilemmas.