Kohlbert's theory of moral development : a cross-sectional study of the relationship between social experience and moral reasoning.
The study was undertaken to assess the relationship between social experience and moral reasoning, and to examine two aspects of Kohlberg's universality claims. The participants were 81 South Africans; comprising 40 Blacks and 41 Whites drawn from four age groups. Moral reasoning was measured by means of The Standard Issue Scoring Manual (Colby et al.,1987 a,b). Social experience was measured by means of various self devised instruments. Results revealed that aside from the 19 - 28 age group there were no significant differences in level of moral reasoning between blacks and whites. Furthermore, blacks and whites showed no significant differences in the use of autonomous moral judgements. On the moral orientations, blacks and whites showed some differences in their pattern of responses. Results also revealed significant age differences in level of moral reasoning, moral orientations and moral type. On the measures of social experience, whites were found to have a more advantaged social experience than blacks. An examination of how social experience and moral reasoning, and age and moral reasoning were related, revealed that irrespective of race, the variables that were consistently related to moral reasoning, were age and education. The combination of variables that best predicted level of moral reasoning were found to be age and social index for whites, and education for blacks. The findings of the present study also provided some support for Kohlberg's universality claims. The results were discussed in relation to the findings of past research and the social realities within the South African context. Limitations of the present study were considered and suggestions were made concerning further research.