Psychology, Department of


Document Type


Date of this Version

September 2005


Published in Journal of Research on Adolescence, 15:3 (September 2005), pp. 223–233. Copyright © 2005 Society for Research on Adolescence. doi:10.1111/j.1532-7795.2005.00094.x “The definitive version is available at”


Themes in the papers in this special issue of the JRA on moral development are identified. We discuss the intersection of moral development research with policy concerns, the distinctive qualities of moral life in adolescence that warrant investigation, the multiple connotations of "moral," the methods typical of moral development research, and the influences that shape adolescent moral development. Suggestions are made for new methods and new directions in the study of moral development.

Moral development in adolescence has reached maturity as an area of research. This essay introduces a special issue of the Journal of Research on Adolescence, which collects some of the very best investigations on adolescent moral development. Expansive reviews of the large literature will also appear in the Handbook of Moral Development (Killen & Smetana, in press), the Handbook of Child Development (Damon, in press), and in the most recent volume in the Nebraska Symposium on Motivation series (Carlo & Edwards, in press). Moreover, there are hundreds of research papers related to moral development in adolescence appearing each year, many of which escape synthesis in the various reviews and collections just mentioned.