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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)

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association