n Education as Change - Emerging moral orientations amongst primary school children in the province of KwaZulu-Natal

Volume 10, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1682-3206
  • E-ISSN: 1947-9417
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This paper seeks to contribute to current research on variations within moral orientations of children initially pointed to by Kohlberg and Carol Gilligan. The study is unique in that it has not been possible to locate studies in the South African context that have examined the moral logic children bring to their judgements of violent and potentially violent events. Data was obtained from a group of children ranging in age from 9-13 years, 12 girls and 18 boys enrolled at an urban primary school in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. The participants in the study come from diverse language, racial, religious, and ethnic groups. High levels of crime and violence are prevalent in the working class communities in which the children live. They were requested to reflect upon two scenarios depicting real life dilemmas, and then engage in moral judgements and decision making in response to probing questions put to them in interviews. Results revealed that, contrary to Gilligan's view, across age and gender the children's responses reflected a moral orientation higher to justice than to care. 65% of boys' responses show greater use of a justice orientation in their reasoning than care orientation (35%). A similar trend was evident with girls across the age ranges: 60% of girls' responses were justice oriented as opposed to 40 % that were care oriented. An interesting finding was that girls' use of a justice orientation increased with age, and the use of moral reasoning that reflected a care orientation decreased with age. However, in line with Gilligan's theory, boys' responses across age ranges reflected a higher orientation to justice than to care. The findings contribute to this increasing unraveling of what seemed to be an initially simple variation in moral reasoning based on gender. They show a stronger tendency towards a justice orientation within a community struggling with poverty and violence in a post revolutionary society.

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