Culture and Moral Development
JOAN G. MILLER
No topic is more central to an understanding of culture than perhaps morality. Indeed, it is often difficult to delineate where culture ends and morality begins as culture and morality share an intricate and intimate relationship. In fact, an argument could be (and has been) made that much of culture's contents and the goals of enculturation are to ensure the inscription of culture-specific processes and understanding of morality, justice, and fairness in the individual.
In this chapter, Miller provides us with a comprehensive and excellent overview of the literature in the area of culture and morality. She begins by describing the major mainstream approaches to moral development, including the cognitive developmental perspectives of Piaget and Kohlberg, the distinct domain perspective of Turiel, and the morality of caring perspective of Gilligan. Miller is deft at not only describing in detail the basic tenets of each of the approaches, but also cleverly evaluating each in terms of empirical and theoretical limitations. As Miller notes, each of the three approaches downplays the impact of cultural meanings and practices, shares the assumption that morality is self-constructed in the context of everyday socialization experiences, and assumes fundamentally the same forms in all cultural settings.
Miller then goes beyond the mainstream approaches in discussing cultural approaches to moral development. Focusing on three key issues—culturally inclusive definitions of morality, the nature of cultural meanings, and the cultural grounding of developmental processes—Miller describes key empirical findings in the cross-cultural literature that demonstrate the close interrelationship between culture and morality. The evidence reviewed spans all areas of morality research, including judgments of justice morality, moralities of community and interpersonal relationships, and moralities related to divinity and spirituality and demonstrates convincingly that cultural meanings and practices affect the application of moral codes in everyday situations and also produce qualitative differences in moral reasoning.
Using this review as a platform, Miller argues convincingly for a future research agenda that is well characterized by an integration with other psychological processes, an incorporation of areas of morality previously ignored by mainstream research, and a longitudinal approach to understanding the process of moral development
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Publication information: Book title: The Handbook of Culture & Psychology. Contributors: David Matsumoto - Editor. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2001. Page number: 151.
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