Social support and its influence on college students' understanding of moral expertise.


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Colleges and universities offer environments conducive to moral development, which is seen as essential for cultivating civic engagement, intellectual growth, and virtuous character. As part of a larger study on character and religion at Christian universities, this article provides a longitudinal case study analysis of students at a mid-size, faith-based research university, exploring how students seek moral expertise through social support from faculty, staff, peers, and social, as well as religious, communities. Fourteen students were interviewed in their first and third years of enrollment, culminating in 28 total interviews. Data were coded and analyzed to discern how students understood moral expertise. The findings suggest that students sought out guidance from a variety of social groups and that students’ relationships with religious organizations and peer mentors influenced how students articulated their views of moral expertise. Students’ understanding of moral expertise was shaped by social supports, particularly moral exemplars and mentors.



Moral expertise. Social support. Christian universities. College students.