Transitioning through relativism: Nurturing a sense of shared moral responsibility in young adulthood

Tracey Lamont, Fordham University


This study examines how Robert Kegan’s constructive-developmental theory, situated in a postmodern cultural context, can help religious educators construct new ways to think about young adult moral development and develop a fuller and more adequate understanding of young adult moral development, as a foundation for nurturing a sense of shared moral responsibility in a global postmodern age. Drawing insight from both the Catholic moral tradition, Kegan’s theory of development, and Blasi’s theory of the moral self, this study offers a unique exploration of how the development of conscience and the development of a person’s personality can have a direct effect on how he/she thinks and acts morally. This study explores the dynamics of human personhood as a basis for appreciating more fully how the moral questions raised by young adults shape their outlook on life, and how that outlook shapes who they are and who they may become. Set within the larger context of a humanistic field of study, this study utilizes an interdisciplinary approach in exploring the moral development of contemporary young adults in the Catholic faith tradition and offers a method for examining websites designed for Catholic young adults. Finally, the study uses Kegan’s theory to critique contemporary sociological data, specifically, Christian Smith’s analysis on young adult morality. From Kegan’s perspective, transitional moral relativism may be a result of transitioning beyond adolescent ways of knowing and towards a new and more complex way of perceiving of oneself. By exploring Kegan’s constructive-developmental theory of morality, as an aspect of human personhood, this study seeks to provide religious educators with new understandings of how one’s integrity and self-understanding, or identity, can strengthen and enhance their moral stance in order to better guide them in moral decisions and actions towards a dialectical sense of moral responsibility. The study proposes that religious educators must help young adults embrace moral relativism as a normative aspect of human personhood and moral development before they can enable young adults to move beyond moral relativism and develop more complex and mature ways of knowing.

Subject Area

Religious education

Recommended Citation

Lamont, Tracey, "Transitioning through relativism: Nurturing a sense of shared moral responsibility in young adulthood" (2015). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10014281.