n Gender and Behaviour - Moral reasoning in the early years : age and gender patterns amongst young children in South Africa

Volume 9, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1596-9231



Drawing on the work of Carol Gilligan (1982) and Lawrence Kohlberg (1969) the study sought to examine children's moral reasoning about situations involving conflicts and how they would resolve them. It also explored whether children's choice of moral orientation varied across individual factors such as age and gender. The study was conducted at a primary school in a working class suburb in The province of KwaZulu-Natal. The participants in the study were a group of 72 grade one and two students. They were randomly selected stratified by age (6, 7 and 8 year olds) and gender. The children were required to respond to three scenarios depicting real life moral dilemmas. A key finding was that children's responses across gender and age reflected more of a care than a justice orientation. Across age ranges boys' responses reflected more of a care orientation than a justice orientation which is contrary to Kohlberg's view. Girls' responses reflected a greater care orientation than a justice orientation, as found in studies by Gilligan.

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