oa Journal of Psychology in Africa - Moral values in Nigeria



Declining moral standards and increasing rates of crime and corruption are commonly reported in the modern world, and Nigeria is no exception. The present study was undertaken to investigate the nature and variation of moral values in Nigerian adults, particularly as related to the context in which moral judgements are made. It also looked for relationships between moral values and other sociopsychological dimensions, notably internal-external locus of control, and traditionalism versus modernism. Subjects comprised thirteen women and twelve men, most from western and south western Nigeria, who were attending a. six-month media broadcasting course which claimed to sensitise an awareness of topical moral issues. They were given three testing sessions at the start, middle and end of their course. Each session included six moral dilemmas based on Nigerian everyday life and experience. Measures of locus of control and traditional-modern attitudes were administered on the second and third sessions, while biographical information was collected on the first. Anonymity of respondents was ensured. Answers to questions on the moral dilemmas were categorised as self-centred, society-centred or person-centred, a scheme derived from consideration of Freudian and Piagetian theory. A fourth category, called 'evasive', was also found necessary. Results showed no significant variation in moral dilemma scores due to course exposure. Most of the 394 answers were categorised as society-centred (194), followed by 114 person-centred and 66 self-centred. Twenty fell into the 'evasive' category. As predicted, a significant correlation was found between traditional-modern and moral dilemma scores, modernism being associated with more person-centred responses. There was no correlation between morality and locus of control scores. A significant finding is that moral judgements varied according to the nature of the dilemmas themselves, many favouring society-centred, some self-centred, others person-centred, and yet others evasive responses. It is concluded that moral judgements are subject to influence by situational context, the interpretation of which may vary according to culture-specific values and beliefs. Problems arising from the association between individualism and modernisation are also discussed, with particular reference to moral education programmes.


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