Moral dilemma in adolescence: The role of values, prosocial moral reasoning and moral disengagement in helping decision making

Marinella Paciello, Roberta Fida, Carlo Tramontano, Ellie Cole, Luca Cerniglia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


The decision-making process was investigated in which a request for help was explicit but clearly not in the helper's personal interest. Based on Eisenberg's theory on prosocial moral reasoning, Schwartz's theory on basic human values and Bandura's moral disengagement theory it was hypothesized that personal values influence prosocial moral reasoning and moral disengagement, which in turn support or inhibit the propensity to help in a high-cost situation for the helper. Using moral dilemma scenarios, a sample of 171 adolescents (50% male) were asked to consider whether or not to offer their assistance. Adolescents also filled out the Prosocial Reasoning Objective Measure, the Portrait Values Questionnaire and the Moral Disengagement Scale. Results showed that despite internalization of other-oriented values and more internalized prosocial reasoning, moral disengagement contributed to the avoidance of moral responsibility and allowed potential helpers to prioritize their own needs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-205
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Journal of Developmental Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Helping behaviour
  • Moral disengagement
  • Omission
  • Personal values
  • Prosocial moral reasoning

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