Religious Bias in Moral Development Research: A Psychometric Investigation


morality, Kohlbergs stages of moral development, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, normativity, religious laws, divinity, test bias


The present article reports two studies in which the validity of the Defining Issues Test (DI[T; Rest 1979) for conservative religious people was examined. In Study 1 we found that from 16 to 25 (of 72) DIT items had differential functioning; that is, the items were measuring a different construct for conservative religious subjects. Study 2 provided evidence that a large proportion of the differential item functioning observed in Study 1 was due to the religious connotations these items had for the religious subjects. We concluded that the DIT is not completely valid for people from some conser- vative religious cultures. Our studies join with other research in providing evidence that Kohlberg's theory of moral development is to some extent religiously and culturally limited.

Original Publication Citation

Richards, P.S. & Davison, M.L. (1992). Religious bias in moral development research: A psychometric investigation. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 31, 467-485.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion




David O. McKay School of Education


Counseling Psychology and Special Education

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor