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To clarify the relationship between veterinary medical education and moral development in response to 2 previous studies that presented conflicting evidence that the experience of veterinary medical education may inhibit moral development.


The Defining Issues Test (DIT) was used to survey the moral reasoning of veterinary medical students at the beginning and end of their education.

Sample Population

First- and fourth-year veterinary medical students.


The moral reasoning of 98 veterinary medical students was assessed at the beginning of their first semester of veterinary medical education and again, 4 years later, at the end of their last semester to determine whether their moral reasoning scores would reflect the expected maturity-related increases usually found at this age range and education level.


The DIT scores ranged from 8.3 to 70.0 for first-year students and from 16.7 to 76.7 for fourth-year students. The first-year mean was 44.0 and the fourth-year mean was 45.4.The mean change of +1.45 points was not significant. Statistical analysis did not reveal any significant correlation between the moral reasoning scores and age; however, there was a significant correlation between the moral reasoning scores and gender, with females scoring higher on the first and second test. The difference in the rate of change between tests by gender was not significant.


This study appears to confirm the findings of an earlier study suggesting veterinary medical education inhibits an increase of moral reasoning in veterinary medical students. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 1996;209:2002–2004)

Free access
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association


Although veterinary medicine endorses high moral character and adherence to a code of ethics, to our knowledge, virtually no studies have examined the influence of veterinary medical education on the moral development of its students. Using the Kohlberg standard moral judgment interview, this study examined that relationship in a sample of 20 veterinary medical students (16.0% of the veterinary college's student body). The students were tested at the beginning and at the end of their veterinary medical education to determine whether their moral reasoning scores had increased to the same extent as those of other postgraduate students. It was found that normally expected increases in moral reasoning did not occur over the four years of veterinary medical education for these students, suggesting that their veterinary medical educational experience somehow inhibited their moral reasoning ability rather than facilitated it. With a range of moral reasoning scores between 313 and 436, the mean increase from first year to fourth year of 12.5 points was not statistically significant. Statistical analysis revealed no significant correlations between the moral reasoning scores on age or gender, although there were significant correlations with Medical College Admissions Test scores and grade point average scores.

Free access
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association