Charting the moral life courses: A theory of moral development in U.S. evangelical and mainline Protestant cultures
Drawing from qualitative analyses of interviews, ethnographic data, and a review of interdisciplinary literature, this manuscript puts forth a theory of moral life course narratives among U.S. evangelical and mainline Protestants. This theory delineates the relationship between religious worldviews and conceptions of moral behaviors, and the manner in which these worldviews and attendant moral conceptions change across the life course for community members. Grounded theory analyses of 32 participants’ divinity-based moral discourses were interpreted in conjunction with their worldviews, as well as church, home, and school contexts. Analyses indicated that evangelical children highlighted their moral transgressions because they regarded themselves as still quite close to a sinful birth. Evangelical adults, who had been saved and were moving toward God, temporally and spiritually distanced themselves from the morally wrong deeds of their youth. Meanwhile, mainline children and adolescents rarely reasoned about their moral experiences in terms of divinity. This finding is understood in light of their church’s emphasis on developing an individualized relationship with God over time. The study and resultant theory elaborate cultural constructions and transmissions of moral life course narratives that, in turn, provide a framework for understanding when, why, and how divinity enters into moral meaning making for cultural community members. We conclude by advocating for theoretical, methodological, and analytical approaches that expose the cultural nature of developmentally dynamic moral selves.
Culture and Psychology
McKenzie, Jessica and Jensen, Lene Arnett, "Charting the moral life courses: A theory of moral development in U.S. evangelical and mainline Protestant cultures" (2017). Psychology. 823.