Violence, care and justice : investigating the association between exposure to violence and moral development in Black South African students.
Marais, Debra Leigh.
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Two moral orientations in men and women‟s reasoning about moral dilemmas have dominated the literature: an orientation to rights, fairness, and justice and another based on care, compassion and concern for others. It is widely accepted that exposure to violence has a number of adverse effects on children and adolescents‟ psychosocial development. Recent research has begun to explore whether, and how, exposure to violence impacts on moral development. Studies examining the nature of this association, however, have yielded contradictory results. While there is evidence to suggest that exposure to violence adversely affects moral development, it has also been shown that exposure to violence simply influences which moral reasoning style is likely to predominate – justice or care. Beginning with a brief review of moral development theories and of the psychosocial effects of exposure to violence, the present research explored the association between exposure to violence and moral development. This study aimed to determine whether there is an association between gender, moral orientation, and exposure to violence. Based on the literature, it was hypothesised that men would exhibit a justice moral orientation, while women would exhibit a moral orientation based on care. Further, it was expected that men would show higher levels of exposure to violence than women. Exposure to violence was expected to be significantly positively correlated with justice reasoning. A significant association was anticipated between gender, exposure to violence and moral orientation. In particular, it was hypothesised that greater exposure to violence would have an adverse effect on moral development. This association, in turn, was expected to be significantly related to gender.