Date of Award

Spring 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling & Human Services


Counselor Education and Supervision

Committee Director

Theodore P. Remley, Jr.

Committee Member

Cherng-Jhy Yen

Committee Member

Garrett McAuliffe


Accrediting, credentialing, and counseling association bodies require counselors to possess ethical and legal knowledge and an understanding of applying ethical and legal standards to effectively serve clients. Prior to the creation of an ethical and legal knowledge instrument, scholars had theorized a relationship among ethical and legal knowledge, cognitive development, and ethical decision-making in counseling. With the creation of a new instrument for ethical and legal knowledge, ethical and legal knowledge could be assessed with extensively used constructs such as moral reasoning for ethical decision-making and cognitive complexity for cognitive development. This study investigated ethical and legal knowledge and cognitive complexity as predictors of moral reasoning. From eight institutions, 65 counseling students completed the three instruments through an online survey. Higher ethical and legal knowledge was a predictor of higher levels of moral reasoning in counseling students. Inferences for counselor educators, counselors, and future research were discussed.


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