Moral Climate and the Development of Moral Reasoning: the effects of dyadic discussions between young offenders

Journal of Moral Education 26 (1):21-43 (1997)
Abstract
Abstract Cognitive?developmental theory claims that moral reasoning can be developed through discussion with others, especially those at a higher stage. This study examined two social/contextual factors that may mediate such cognitive processes in moral development: socio?metric status and moral climate. Socio?metric status was studied because participants were 101 institutionalised young offenders with established differences in peer status. Moral climate was studied because participants came from residential units that varied markedly in programme activities. Participants were assessed for moral reasoning, perceptions of moral and institutional climate and also through behavioural ratings. Moral climate was found to represent a valid measure of the factors which predict behaviour within institutional settings. To study peer status, 40 young offenders participated in moral dilemma discussions with another subject who systematically differed in level of moral reasoning and peer status. It was found that exposure to both higher?stage reasoning and higher peer status were essential elements within the developmental process. Implications for cognitive??developmental theory and moral education within correctional and school programmes are discussed
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