Graduate Research Papers


Open Access Graduate Research Paper


Many parents, teachers, and students are unaware of the level of moral development exhibited by characters in the Harry Potter series. The purpose of this study was to explore moral development in the first four novels of the series in an attempt to find positive examples of moral decision-making. Using Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development, adolescent characters were evaluated for higher-level moral development and adult characters were evaluated for moral development at a higher level than that shown by the adolescent characters.

A content analysis was performed on the first four novels in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Moral decisions and their underlying motivations of four adolescent characters and eight adult characters were evaluated. The researcher discovered that the adolescent characters fell into a higher moral development level than predicted by Kohlberg's theory in the first three novels. They remained in this level for the fourth novel where their ages matched Kohlberg's predicted predominant level. Three of the adult characters studied showed moral development at a higher level than the adolescent characters. Only these three, however, were written as positive examples for readers. The other adult characters fell into fantasy archetypal roles of the fool and villain and were not expected to perform at the highest moral development level.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of Curriculum and Instruction


Division of School Library Studies

First Advisor

Barbara Safford


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Date Original


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