An investigation of the development of moral reasoning of schoool children in selected schools in Nairobi and Makueni districts
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The purpose of this study was to investigate the development of moral reasoning; in school children. The major objective was to find out whether moral reasoning of children follows the same sequential order as found in other countries. It also investigated whether there were any significant gender and rural - urban differences in moral reasoning. In addition, also investigated was whether subjects' moral reasoning was related to social class, type of school, parents' education and occupation and the subjects' religious practices. The subjects of the study were 360 standard three, seven and form three students. Of these pupils, 179 were female while 181 were male; half of them were from urban areas while the other half were from rural areas. The pupils were randomly selected from their respective classes in selected schools. To obtain their levels of moral reasoning, the Socio-moral Reflection Measure - Short Form (SRMS -SF) was administered. Their responses were scored for stage and aspect of moral reasoning. After scoring, three summary scores were obtained: the Social Moral Reflection Maturity Score (SRMS), the Global Score (GS) and the Modal Score (MS). The data was computer analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). T - test and analysis of variance were used to test the various hypotheses at the p< 0.05 level of significance. The major findings of the study were as that most of the subjects used the immature levels (stages 1 and 2) of moral reasoning. Reasons frequently used in moral justifications were advantages, labels, exchanges, unilateral authority and other external and self- focused considerations. There were significant. age differences in subjects' moral reasoning. Younger subjects had lower SRMS scores than older subjects. There was a significant relationship between age and moral reasoning but no significant gender differences in moral reasoning were found. Subjects from urban areas had significantly higher SRMS scores than those in rural areas. In relation to these findings, it was recommended that parents need to model more mature levels of moral reasoning especially when disciplining their children. In addition, they also need to encourage discussion of moral issues with their children rather than demanding unquestioning obedience from children. Parents should explain effects of children's behaviour on others and raise concern for others rather than focusing on self-centred reasons and expose their children to a wide range of experiences such as peer interaction and role-taking opportunities. This Would help the children to understand the importance of others in their relationships. Hopefully, their moral reasoning would involve more consideration of' others' welfare. It was also recommended that schools should improve their moral atmosphere by using democratic rather than authoritarian styles of interaction with students. Teachers should encourage discussion of moral dilemmas and issues geared towards students' responsibility to the community rather than to the sell. It was also recommended that students should be encouraged to recognise inadequacies and inconsistencies in their moral reasoning. They should be encouraged to use more mature levels of moral reasoning. Any moral education programmes should correspond to students' developmental level, but at the same time encourage advancement to higher levels of moral reasoning. The general conclusion was that although moral reasoning develops with the age of subjects, majority of the subjects used the immature (stages 1 &2) levels of moral reasoning rather than the mature levels (stages 3 and 4). It was suggested that more research be done in the area to collate more data in this field. It was also suggested that research should be extended to older subjects to establish any cases of regression after sixteen years.