The nature of age and gender differences in the evaluation of three everyday immoral behaviors was analyzed with a 21-item questionnaire. The items included examples of theft, lying, and fighting expressed both as omissions and commissions, commissions further specified with positive motives, negative motives, duress, or provocation. Three age groups were included in the study: pre-adolescents, midadolescents, and late adolescents (N = 2594). The most important findings were that boys accepted all immoral acts better than girls, the “immoral peak” in midadolescence, the low differentiation between the different types of acts in preadolescence, and the flexible usage of different rationales in middle and late adolescence.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Ajzen I., and Fishbein, M. (1975). A Bayesian analysis of attribution processes. Psychol. Bull. 82: 261–277.
Carlo, G., Eisenberg, N., and Knight, G. P. (1992). An objective measure of adolescents' prosocial moral reasoning. Journal of Research in Adolescence 2: 331–349.
Coleman, J. C. (1978). Current contradictions in adolescent theory. J. Youth Adolesc. 7: 1–11.
Darley, J. M., and Shultz, T. R. (1990). Moral rules: Their content and acquisition. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 41: 525–556.
Darley, J. M., Klosson, E. C., and Zanna, M. P. (1978). Intentions and their contexts in the moral judgments of children and adults. Child Develop. 49: 66–74.
Eisenberg, N., Miller, P. A., Shell, R., McNalley, S., and Shea, C. (1991). Prosocial development in adolescence: A longitudinal study. Develop. Psychol. 27: 849–857.
Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identity and the Life Cycle. Norton, New York.
Fincham, F. D., and Jaspars, J. M. (1980). Attribution of responsibility: From man the scientist to man as lawyer. Adv. Exp. Social Psychol. 13: 81–138.
Ford, M. R., and Lowery, C. R. (1986). Gender differences in moral reasoning: A comparison of the use of justice and care orientations. J. Personal. Social Psychol. 50: 777–783.
Galotti, K. M. (1989). Gender differences in self-reported moral reasoning: A review and new evidence. J. Youth Adolesc. 18: 475–488.
Galotti, K. M., Kozberg, S. F., and Farmer, M. C. (1991). Gender and developmental differences in adolescents' conceptions of moral reasoning. J. Youth Adolesc. 20: 13–30.
Gilligan, C. (1982). In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, MA.
Gilligan, C., and Belenky, M. R. (1980). A naturalistic study of abortion decisions. In Selman, R., and Yando, R. (eds.), Clinical-Developmental Psychology. Jossey Bass, San Francisco.
Grueneich, R. (1982). Issues in the developmental study of how children use intention and consequence information to make moral evaluations. Child Develop. 53: 29–43.
Haan, N. (1982). Can research on morality be “scientific?” Am. Psychol. 37: 1096–1104.
Haan, N. (1983). Replies to Leary, Houts, and Krasner, Waterman and Einhorn. Am. Psychol. 38: 1256–1258.
Hautamäki, A. (1982). Activity environment, social class and voluntary learning: An interpretation and application of Vygotsky's concepts. Monographs of the University of Joensuu, Series A, 22.
Hu, L., and Bentler, P. M. (1995). Evaluating model fit. In Hoyle, R. H. (ed.), Structural equation modeling. Concepts, issues, and applications. Sage, London.
Hurrelmann, K., and Engel, U. (1992). Delinquency as a symptom of adolescents' orientation toward status and success. J. Youth Adolesc. 21: 119–138.
Leon, M. (1982). Rules in children's moral judgments: Integration of intent, damage, and rationale information. Develop. Psychol. 18: 835–842.
Lindeman, M., Harakka, T., and Keltikangas-Järvinen, L. (in press). Aggression, prosociality and withdrawal as social problem-solving strategies in adolescence. J. Youth Adolesc.
Martijn, C., Spears, R., Van der Pligt, J. and Jakobs, E. (1992). Negativity and positivity effects in person perception and inference: ability versus morality. Eur. J. Social Psychol. 22: 453–463.
McGraw, K. M. (1985). Subjective probabilities and moral judgments. J. Exp. Social Psychol. 21.
McGraw, S. A. (1987). Outcome valence and base rates: The effects on moral judgments. Social Cog. 5: 58–75.
Muuss, R. E. (1988). Carol Gilligan's theory of sex differences in the development of moral reasoning during adolescence. Adolescence 23: 229–243.
Nelson, S. A. (1980). Factors influencing young children's use of motives and outcomes as moral criteria. Child Develop. 51: 823–829.
Nelson-Le Gall, S. A. (1985). Motive-outcome matching and outcome foreseeability: Effects on attribution of intentionality and moral judgments. Develop. Psychol. 21: 332–337.
Olthof, T., Ferguson, T. J., and Luiten, A. (1989). Personal responsibility antecedents of anger and blame reactions in children. Child Develop. 60: 1328–1336.
Peltonen, J. (1994). Kotikasvatuksessa koetun hyväksynnän ja torjunnan, moraaliarviointien sekä moraaliorientaation yhteyksistä [The relationships between adolescents' moral reasoning, moral orientations and approval and rejection in home education]. Unpublished licentiate thesis, University of Oulu, Finland.
Petersen, A. C., Sariginai, P. A., and Kennedy, R. E. (1991). Adolescent depression: Why more girls? J. Youth Adolesc. 20: 247–271.
Petersen, A. C., Compas, B. E., Brooks-Gunn, J., Stemmler, M., Ey, S., and Grant, K. E. (1993). Depression in adolescence. Am. Psychol. 48: 155–168.
Powers, S. I., Hauser, S. T., and Kilner, L. A. (1989). Adolescent mental health. Am. Psychol. 44: 200–208.
Pratt, M. W., Golding, G., Hunter, W., and Sampson, R. (1988). Sex differences in adult moral orientations. J. Personal. 56.
Reeder, G. D. and Brewer, M. B. (1979). A schematic model of dispositional attribution in interpersonal perception. Psychol. Rev. 86: 61–79.
Rest, J. R. (1983). Morality. In Mussen, P. H. (ed.), Handbook of Child Psychology (Vol. IV). Wiley, New York.
Rotenberg, K. J. (1980). Children's use of intentionality in judgments of character and disposition. Child Develop. 51: 282–284.
Schwalbe, M. L. (1990). Toward a sociology of moral problem solving. J. Theory Social Behav. 20: 131–155.
Selman, R. L., Beardslee, W., Schultz, L. H., Krupa, M., and Podorefsky, D. (1986). Assessing adolescent interpersonal negotiation strategies: Toward the integration of structural and functional models. Develop. Psychol. 22: 450–459.
Shapiro, J., Baumeister, R. F., and Kessler, Jane, W. (1991). A three-component model of children's teasing: Aggression, humor, and ambiguity. J. Soc. Clin. Psychol. 4: 459–472.
Shelton, C. M., and McAdams, D. P. (1990). In search for everyday morality: The development of a measure. Adolescence 25: 923–943.
Shultz, T. R., and Schleifer, M. (1983). Towards a refinement of attribution concepts. In Jaspars, J., Finchamn, F. D., and Hewstone, M. (eds.), Attribution Theory and Research: Conceptual, Developmental and Social Dimensions. Academic Press, London.
Shultz, T. R., and Wells, D. (1985). Judging the intentionality of action outcomes. Develop. Psychol. 21: 83–89.
Skowronski, J. and Carlston, D. (1992). Caught in the act: When impressions based on highly diagnostic behaviors are resistant to contradiction. Eur. J. Social Psychol. 22: 435–452.
Spranca, M., Minsk, E., and Baron, J. (1991). Omission and commission in judgment and choice. J. Exp. Social Psychol. 27: 76–105.
Sugarman, D. B. (1986). Active versus passive euthanasia: An attributional analysis. J. Appl. Social Psychol. 16: 60–76.
Suls, J., and Kalle, R. J. (1979). Children's moral judgments as a function of intention, damage, and an actor's physical harm. Develop. Psychol. 15: 93–94.
Wahlström, R. (1988). Itsearvostuksen ja moraaliarviointein kehitystason yhteydestä sodan pelkoon ja rauhantahtoisuuteen [The impact of self-esteem and moral development on fear of war and pacific intentions]. Unpublished licentiate thesis, University of Jyväskylä, Finland.
Walker, L. J. (1984). Sex differences in the development of moral reasoning: A critical review. Child Develop. 55: 677–691.
Walker, L. J. (1986). Sex differences in the development of moral reasoning: A rejoinder to Baumrind. Child Develop. 57: 522–526.
Walker, L. J. (1989). A longitudinal study of moral reasoning. Child Develop. 60: 157–166.
Walker, L. J., de Wries, B., and Trevethan, s. D. (1987). Moral stages and moral orientations in real-life and hypothetical dilemmas. Child Develop. 58: 842–858.
Weisfeld, G. E., and Berger, J. M. (1983). Some features of human adolescence viewed in evolutionary perspective. Hum. Dev. 3: 121–133.
Yussen, S. R. (1977). Characteristics of moral dilemmas written by adolescents. Develop. Psychol. 13: 162–163.
About this article
Cite this article
Keltikangas-Järvinen, L., Lindeman, M. Evaluation of Theft, Lying, and Fighting in Adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence 26, 467–483 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1024585406173
- Gender Difference
- Late Adolescence
- Immoral Behavior
- Positive Motive
- Negative Motive