Children's moral orientations : age and gender patterns amongst young children at a primary school in KwaZulu-Natal.
In examining children's moral orientations, the study draws on the work of Carol Gilligan (1982) and Lawerence Kohlberg (1969) focusing on age and gender differences in moral development. This study sought to examine children's moral reasoning about situations involving conflicts and how they can resolve them. The present study is carried out in order to ascertain whether children's choice of moral orientations varies across individual factors such as age and gender. The study was conducted at a primary school in a working class suburb in Pietermaritzburg, province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The participants in the study were a group of 72 grade one and two learners. The participants were randomly selected from an alphabetical class list stratified by age (6, 7 and 8 year olds) and gender in that 12 boys and 12 girls were selected in each age group. The pupils were required to respond to three scenarios depicting real life dilemmas. The scenarios were used for obtaining data on the children's moral reasoning. Results have shown that children across gender and age made more care than justice orientation compared to 30% that reflected a justice orientation. An interesting finding was that across age boys' responses reflected a more care orientation (68%) than a justice orientation (32%) which is contrary to Kohlberg's view. However, across age girls' responses reflected a greater care orientation (72%) than a justice orientation (28%), as suggested by Gilligan. Both boys and girls showed a preference for the care orientation because they appear to understand the importance of solving problems in a way that considers the needs and concerns of all individuals. To understand the logic behind the learners determination of who is right and wrong and why, it was necessary to locate and follow the moral language, since the language gives meaning to the learners underlying belief system (Ward, 1988). This study also examined the responses in terms of moral operant concepts, which is defined as the ideas, beliefs, or principles that were used to organize a moral orientation.