T. Krettenauer, L. A. Murua, & F. Jia
Developmental Psychology, Apr 28 , 2016
In this study, age-related differences in adults’ moral identity were investigated. Moral identity was conceptualized a context-dependent self-structure that becomes differentiated and (re)integrated in the course of development and that involves a broad range of value-orientations. Based on a cross-sectional sample of 252 participants aged 14 to 65 years (148 women, M = 33.5 years, SD = 16.9) and a modification of the Good Self-Assessment, it was demonstrated that mean-level of moral identity (averaged across the contexts of family, school/work, and community) significantly increased in the adult years, whereas cross-context differentiation showed a nonlinear trend peaking at the age of 25 years. Value-orientations that define individuals’ moral identity shifted so that self-direction and rule-conformity became more important with age. Age-related differences in moral identity were associated with, but not fully attributable to changes in personality traits. Overall, findings suggest that moral identity development is a lifelong process that starts in adolescence but expands well into middle age.
Here is an excerpt from the Discussion section:
The finding suggests that during adolescence and emerging adulthood individuals become more aware of changing moral priorities under varying circumstances. This process of differentiation is followed by the tendency to (re)integrate value priorities so that moral identities are not only defined by the self-importance of particular values, but by their consistent importance across different areas of life. This consistency may bolster individuals' sense of agency, as moral actions may be experienced as emanating from the self rather than from demand characteristics of external circumstances. Thus, the decline in cross-context differentiation in moral identities in adulthood may indicate that agentic desires become better integrated with morality, which has been described as an important goal of moral identity development by Frimer andWalker (2009).
The article is here.