Moral Judgment of Preschool Kuwaiti Children

By Nazar, Fatima; Kouzekanani, Kamiar | Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, January 1, 2002 | Go to article overview

Moral Judgment of Preschool Kuwaiti Children


Nazar, Fatima, Kouzekanani, Kamiar, Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal


This study examined the moral judgment of 108 Kuwaiti preschool children. The children were tested on two dimensions of Piaget's moral theory, namely moral realism and justice. Four stories patterned after Piaget's work were used to assess the children's moral judgment. Two stories dealt with moral realism, and two other stories dealt with the issue of justice. Results suggest that the children in this present study are well advanced in their moral judgments in terms of equality and justice, as contrasted with Piaget's original findings. The results of the present study were interpreted in the light of previous research, as well as with regard to the socialization process of children.

Perhaps the most prominent contribution to our understanding of children's moral development has been made by Jean Piaget. Piaget (1932) described moral judgment as formative processes that follow one another. He defined two ideal types: the heteronomous and the autonomous. The heteronomous type shows unilateral respect for authorities and the rules they prescribe. This type of moral reasoning is characterized by moral realism. Moral realism is associated with objective responsibility, which tends to value the letter of the law above the purpose of the law. The autonomous type of equality and respect is established at 10 to 12 years of age. It is characterized by the ability to consider rules critically and to apply selectively these rules based upon a goal of mutual respect and cooperation. Human actions are judged by intentions and motives, as well as by consequences of actions. From Piaget's point of view, the child's concept of justice centers on a social system where there is balance and coordination of the interests of the individuals who are participating in it.

Since Piaget's seminal work, much research has been conducted from the Piagetian perspective of children from Western countries to examine their moral judgments of damage done under accidental and intentional conditions (BergCross, 1971; Flynn, 1984; Gutkins, 1972; Johnson, 1962; Keilen & Garg,1993; Ozbek & Forehand, 1973). To date, however, there is a striking paucity of research on preschool children from Arab cultures. Consequently, this study was conducted to determine the moral reasoning in a sample of preschool children in the State of Kuwait. The study followed the steps of Piagetian procedure of assessing moral judgements in children in conjunction with the stages of their intellectual development. Furthermore, associations between moral judgments and age and gender of the children were investigated.

METHOD

SUBJECTS

Subjects were 108 preschoolers from private kindergartens. They were equally divided by sex and age: 27 boys and 27 girls aged 5 years; and 27 boys and 27 girls aged 6 years (mean age =5.30). All of the children were Muslims from the State of Kuwait. They were contacted through their schools. Information about age and sex was taken from the school records.

MATERIAL

Four moral-related short stories were chosen for this study. Two of the stories were patterned after Piaget's clinical method to assess children's moral realism and two dealt with justice. The four stories were derived from Piaget's work and were intended to be a representative subset of the stories that he had reported in his work on moral realism (Piaget, 1932, p. 117) and on the development of the idea of justice (Piaget, p.195 ). The four stories and probe questions were translated by the author into Arabic without changing the content. The only exception was that the Christian names were replaced by Muslim names: John and Henry were replaced by Ahmad and Khalid (masculine version) and by Aisha and Fatima (feminine version).

The following were the two stories dealing with moral clumsiness or stealing: 1. John was playing in his room when his mother asked him to come to dinner.

While John was walking by the table, he accidentally slipped and bumped the dishes, causing 15 dishes to fall and break. …

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