Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 37, Issue 7, pp 875–887 | Cite as

Dimensions of Conscience in Mid-adolescence: Links with Social Behavior, Parenting, and Temperament

  • Deborah Laible
  • Jessica Eye
  • Gustavo Carlo
Empirical Research


The purpose of this study was to determine whether aspects of conscience cohere into broader dimensions and to examine how these broader dimensions of conscience relate to parenting, temperament, and social behavior. One hundred and thirteen adolescents (M age = 15.88 years, 51% female) completed measures of sympathy, guilt, empathic anger, shame, moral reasoning, and internalization. Factor analyses revealed two dimensions of conscience: moral affect (which included guilt, shame, sympathy, and empathic anger) and moral cognition (which included internalization and prosocial moral reasoning). Parental discipline related to both dimensions of conscience, albeit in different ways. High levels of parental inductive discipline and low levels of parental power assertion were associated with high levels of moral affect, whereas high levels of persistent discipline were associated with increased moral cognition. High negative reactivity, however, was only associated with high levels of moral affect. In general, higher levels of moral affect were associated with prosocial behavior and moral conduct during bullying. Higher levels of moral cognition were associated with less participation in bullying, more altruistic behavior, and more frequent helping of the victims of bullying. The discussion focuses on the dimensions of moral conscience in adolescence.


Moral development Prosocial behavior Aggressive behavior Parental discipline 



Funding support was provided to Gustavo Carlo by a Grant (BNS 0132302) from the National Science Foundation.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyLehigh UniversityBethlehemUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Nebraska LincolnLincolnUSA

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