Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology


This research addressed the problem of whether a relationship exists between a particular level of ego development and guilt engendered by a rigid conscience based upon orthodox Christian beliefs. It was anticipated that forty-five graduate students at a conservative midwestern seminary who experienced higher levels of guilt and demonstrated a more rigid conscience/superego would score at the Conscientious stage of ego development measured by the Washington University Sentence Completion Test. Guilt and rigidity of conscience were measured by the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire.

Object relations theories of the origins of guilt were examined along with the relationship between object relations development processes and ego development processes. It was suggested that early object relations problems are recapitulated at later ego development stages. In particular, it was expected that the Conscientious stage of ego development would recapitulate early object relations difficulties in ways that lead to increased vulnerability to excessive guilt. It was also suggested that certain characteristics of orthodox Christian faith contribute to heightened vulnerability at that stage. Developmentally oriented treatment implications based upon object relations theories were described.

No significant differences in the experience of guilt measured by 16PF Factor O were found between ego development levels measured by the Washington University Sentence Completion Test. Mean scores of seminary students on 16PF Factors G (moral standards), O (guilt), Q(,3) (compulsivity), and Q(,v) (strictness of conscience) did not differ meaningfully from general population norms. However, significantly elevated levels of compulsivity measured by 16PF Factor Q(,3) and of strictness of conscience measured by 16PF Factor Q(,v) were found at the Conscientious level of ego development. It was suggested that compulsivity serves as a defense against the experience of guilt and that Christian moral standards contribute to that compulsivity.

Ego development scores for the sample population were limited to a range of three levels. It was suggested that further studies using a wider range of scores from a more demographically diverse population are needed to unambiguously clarify differences or similarities in the experience of guilt across levels of ego development.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access