The following entry provides an overview of the topic by identifying four components of moral character that enable people to act morally: moral sensitivity, moral deliberation, moral motivation, and self-control. All four components undergo significant changes over the course of individuals’ development. It is argued that effective moral character education requires an adequate understanding of how these four components develop.

Moral sensitivity refers to the capacity to understand and appreciate the needs and wellbeing of others. Moral sensitivity is grounded in the development of empathy. Moral deliberation derives from an individual’s capacity to consider potentially conflicting claims and coordinate them in their moral judgments. This capacity benefits from engagement in constructive moral dialogues. Moral motivation is needed for prioritizing moral goals over potentially conflicting interests and desires. It develops through the internalization of moral rules and the degree to which moral values become integrated in individuals’ identities. Lastly, self-control refers to an individual’s ability to be steadfast even when facing obstacles or setbacks. These four components are not static traits; rather moral character is in the dynamic interplay of these components in response to the demand characteristics of a given situation.