Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 76, Issue 4, pp 397–412

An Exploration into the Developmental Psychology of Ethical Theory with Implications for Business Practice and Pedagogy



This article is an attempt to understand ethical theory not just as a set of well-developed philosophical perspectives but as a range of moral capacities that human beings more or less grow into over the course of their lives. To this end, we explore the connection between formal ethical theories and stage developmental psychologies, showing how individuals mature morally, regarding their duties, responsibilities, ideals, goals, values, and interests. The primary method is to extract from the writings of Kohlberg and his students the cues that help to flesh out a developmental picture of a wide range of ethical perspectives. Thus, developmental psychology benefits from gaining a broader understanding of “morality” and “ethics,” and ethical theory benefits from a richer understanding of how moral maturity arises from youthful beginnings in juvenile and adolescent thinking. Results of this study offer insight into the difficulty of teaching ethics and a refined ability to assess moral maturity in business activity.


cognitive moral development ethical theory philosophical foundations pedagogy 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Romney Institute of Public Management, Brigham Young UniversityProvoUSA

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