Moral Maturity: Measuring the Development of Sociomoral Reflection

Moral Maturity: Measuring the Development of Sociomoral Reflection

Moral Maturity: Measuring the Development of Sociomoral Reflection

Moral Maturity: Measuring the Development of Sociomoral Reflection


The traditional production measure of moral judgment has been the Moral Judgment Interview (MJI), which uses hypothetical moral dilemmas to elicit moral judgment. However, the MJI dilemmas have been criticized as artificial and may not be entirely appropriate for children, certain cultures, and practical moral situations. This unique volume utilizes and evaluates a new production measure of moral judgment, the Sociomoral Reflection Measure -- Short Form (SRM-SF), which substitutes brief stimulus materials and evaluative questions for the moral dilemma technique. The authors report that the SRM-SF exhibits an impressive degree of reliability and validity and is quicker to administer and score than other available measures.

To illustrate these findings, this book offers the resources needed for the assessment of the Kohlbergian stage of moral judgment using the SRM-SF. These resources include: an up-to-date review of research and theory, a group-administrable questionnaire, an efficient scoring manual, and self-training exercises in assessment. Psychometrically sound and practical, the SRM-SF has the potential to become the leading moral judgment measure of the 90s.


This chapter relates moral development to general processes of cognitive development, and within that framework provides an introductory description of moral judgment stages. The young child's moral judgment is superficial. The growing child's expanding working memory, as well as increasing social role-taking opportunities, enable him or her to attend simultaneously to multiple features of the environment. These processes eventuate in the achievement of a mature understanding of the intrinsic or underlying meaning of moral values. The child whose moral development has reached a relatively mature level might suggest, for example, that one should keep a promise to a friend to preserve the trust on which the friendship is based, or because mutual respect is the basis for any relationship. Mature or profound moral understanding pertains not only to keeping a promise, but also to a broad spectrum of cross-culturally pervasive moral norms and values such as telling the truth, refraining from stealing, helping others, and saving a life.


It is evident that natural moral development is grossly defined by a trend toward an increasingly internal orientation to norms. Our moral stages . . . clearly represent increasingly interiorized orientations. . . . but this development cannot be defined as a direct internalization of external cultural norms. If students of socialization ignore [the] maturity components of social development in favor of simpler conformity or internalization concepts, they will. . . fail to describe "natural development" correctly. (Kohlberg, 1984, pp. 90-93)

According to Kohlberg, then, it is a mistake to interpret the "increasingly internal orientation" in moral development simply as the outcome of a direct internalization of prevailing cultural norms. Rather, the internal moral orientation represents a mature product of natural development. "Natural . . ."

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