Date Approved


Embargo Period


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Special Education


Interdisciplinary and Inclusive Education


College of Education

First Advisor

Kuder, S. Jay


Learning disabled children--Behavior modification; Moral development; Moral education; Problem children--Behavior modification


Special Education and Teaching


Very few studies have examined moral reasoning in students identified as having behavioral disorders and enrolled in a special education setting. Little attention has been paid to the impact of interventional education programs designed for behaviorally disordered youth on moral reasoning development. The research examined the moral reasoning of behaviorally disordered adolescents enrolled in a self-contained high school setting. The results indicate that behaviorally disordered emotional support high school students are significantly lower in moral reasoning compared to their nonbehaviorally disordered peers. The development of moral reasoning has been considered an important component of both social and cognitive growth in children and adolescents (Kohlberg, 1969; Piaget, 1932/1965). Recently, researchers have called for the development and implementation of moral education interventions for behaviorally disordered students (Maag, 1989; Swarthout, 1988). This increased interest in improving the moral reasoning of behaviorally disordered youth has been spurred, in part, by research findings suggesting that deficits in moral reasoning are related to adult adjustment difficulties (Kohlberg, LaCrosse, & Ricks, 1972). Further evidence suggests that it is possible to elevate the moral reasoning ability of these youths and that this increased level of moral reasoning is associated with decreases in problem behaviors (Arbuthnot & Gordon, 1986).