Although there is now a consensus among moral and character educators that group environment or culture plays a critical role in the formation of character, little sustained attention has been given to the processes through which groups influence individuals' moral dispositions and behavior. Despite indications that participation in extracurricular activities and religious groups significantly influences the moral outlook of children and adolescents, research on moral culture has focused almost exclusively on schools. This project addresses the need for a conceptual framework and methodology for understanding the ways in which different groups influence moral formation during late childhood and adolescence. It also addresses the reciprocal nature of these processes as individuals also exert an influence on the groups in which they participate. Through surveys and intensive interviews of middle and high school students, we expect to describe the various ways in which different kinds of groups influence moral formation. We anticipate that the results will show that the cultures established in different group contexts can have a powerful influence on children's and adolescents' developing sense of self, agency, and identity by giving them a sense of belonging, purpose, and social support. We also expect that this study will encourage research into what constitutes a moral culture not only in schools but in extracurricular and religious contexts as well. Finally, this study will provide researchers with measures that can help them to understand the effectiveness of group cultures on young people at different levels of development. Outputs from this study will include conference presentations, empirical manuscripts, and educational materials for building moral communities in classrooms, extracurricular activities, and religious groups. Longterm, our study will provide much needed data to help schools produce moral adults with a concern for the common good.
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