Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, Vol. 5, No. 2, 1977

Enhancement of Maturity of Moral Judgment by Parent Education I Martin Bunzl, Richard Coder, and Robert D. Wirt 2

University of Minnesota

Relationships between maturity o f moral judgment o f parents, role-taMng opportunities in the home, rote-taking ability in children, andmaturity o f children's moral judgment were studied. A parent intervention program designed to increase role-taking opportunities in the home thought to lead to an increase in the maturity o f morat ]udgrnent o f children was utilized. Suggestive evidence ]br the etaim that it is possible to accelerate rates o f moral maturity o f children through intervening indirectly to train their parents was found. Significant relationships were also found between maturity o f moral judgment in children and role-taking and opportunities for role-taking in the home. Maturity o f moral ]udgrnent o f parents was not found to be significantly related to maturity o f moral judgment o f their childrera The studies reported here were motivated by an interest in investigating the construct of maturity of moral judgment (Kohlberg, 1963, 1968, Note 1, Note 2) within its environmental context. Moral judgment both stems from an individual's social interactions and affects his or her social relations. While there have been a number of correlational studies in which this area has been examined (e.g., Hoffman & Saltztein, 1967; Smith, Haan, & Block, 1968; Holstein, Note 3), experimental studies aimed at the changing moral judgment in a controlled situation have typically followed a simulation model, using the intervention technique of moral discussion groups (Blatt & Kohlberg, 1971; Turiel, 1966; Coder, Note 4). The aim of the studies reported here was to translate previous correlational findings into an intervention program designed to identify naturally occurring environmental catalysts of moral judgment, that is, variables t This study was supported in part by Grant No. 13-11-01-00-053 (71) and Grant No. 13-0100-53 (73) from the Minnesota Governor's Crime Commission. 2Address all correspondenceto Robert D. Wirt, Divisionof Health Care Psychology,University of Minnesota Health SciencesCenter, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455. 177 9 1 9 7 7 P l e n u m P u b l i s h i n g Corp., 2 2 7 West 1 7 t h S t r e e t , N e w Y o r k , N . Y . 3.0011. TO prom o t e freer access to published material in the spirit of t h e 1 9 7 6 C o p y r i g h t L a w , P l e n u m sells r e p r i n t articles f r o m all its journals. This availability underlines the fact t h a t n o part of this p u b l i c a t i o n m a y be r e p r o d u c e d , stored in a retrieval system, or t r a n s m i t t e d , in a n y f o r m o r b y a n y means, electronic, mechanical, p h o t o c o p y i n g , microfilming~ recording, or o t h e r w i s e , w i t h o u t w r i t t e n permission o f t h e p u b l i s h e r . S h i p m e n t is p r o m p t ; rate per article is $7.50.


Bunzl, Coder, and Wirt

of parent behavior that act to facilitate development of maturity of moral judgment in their children. Selman (Note 5) has offered a developmental model of role-taking and has cited evidence (1971) suggesting that reciprocal role-taking constitutes a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for the attainment of Kohlberg's third and fourth stages of moral judgment. While role-taking and moral judgment both correlate with intelligence, the coefficients are low (Coder, Note 4), as one would predict if they are separate constructs. If, as the Selman data indicate, the ability to take another's role is a necessary condition for the higher stages of moral reasoning, it seems reasonable to predict that the causal prerequisites of role-taking will constitute developmental prerequisites for moral development. Role-taking opportunities in the child's social relations is an obvious candidate to be included in a list of causal prerequisites for role-taking. Weak evidence for the view that it is also a factor in moral development does exist. Using Kohlberg's three-level paradigm of moral judgment, Smith et al. (1968) found significantly greater conflict and disagreement in families of postconventional males as compared to conventional males. Hoffman and Saltztein (1967) found moral judgment in children related significantly to the use of induction as a method of parenting in middle-class families. Kohlberg, Scharf, and Hickey (1972) and Hickey (Note 6) in studies of prison inmates concluded, on the basis of discrepancies in the normative moral judgment of inmates and their perception of the level of justice of the prison, that the bureaucratic authority system and the rigid structuring of social interactions blocked role-taking and perspective-taking among inmates. Chandler (1973) showed that by increasing role-taking skills in a group of chronic delinquents, delinquency rate could be affected. Holstein (Note 3) found a correlation between parents with conventional levels of moral judgment and the incidence of giving low encouragement to their children when observed in a collective problem-solving situation. Further, she found that controlling for age, the incidence of preconventional levels of moral judgment in children was related significantly to the incidence of low encouragement of the children by their parents when observed in a collective problemsolving situation and that moral judgment in children was related significantly to the time spent by the family in solving the collective problem that was presented in the experiment. Her studies showed a high correlation between level of moral judgment and role-taking opportunity. These studies indicate that moral judgment in children is related to the kind of instructional techniques used by their parents. In the studies reported here, the researchers sought to investigate the relationships between maturity of moral judgment of parents, role-taking opportunities in the home, children's role-taking, and the children's moral judgment. Further, the researchers sought to investigate whether or not an intervention designed to increase more mature role-taking opportunities in the home would promote moral judgment in children. Our basic hypothesis was that if we in-

Enhancing Moral Judgment


tervened in communication patterns in families to increase the opportunities for role-taking by children, there would be an increase in level of role-taking by the children leading to an increase in the maturity of their moral judgment. Our studies aimed specifically to determine if: 1. the level of maturity of moral judgment of children, as measured by the Kohlberg instruments, would have a significant linear relationship to the level of role-taking; 2. the level of maturity of moral judgment would vary in an inverse linear relationship to the levels of imperative and instructional control techniques exercised and be positively related to levels of personal and cognitive rational techniques utilized; 3. the level of maturity of moral judgment of children would have a significant linear relationship to levels of maturity of moral judgment of their parents; 4. there would be a significant change in level of maturity of moral judgment of an experimental group of children whose parents were taught methods of facilitating role-taking opportunities while children of parents in a control group would not change significantly; 5. there would be a significant shift from the use of imperative and instructional techniques to personal and cognitive rational techniques of control on the part of the experimental group of parents and no change with control group parents; and 6. there would be a significant change in the level of role-taking of the experimental group of children as compared to those children whose parents were in the control group. This report covers two studies that were designed to investigate these questions. The first study was conducted during 1972-1973 and involved all six questions. During 1973-1974 the researchers sought to replicate the findings of the first study that were pertinent to the fourth question. This replication study was part of a larger investigation that is not reported here. The major part of this report deals with the first of the two studies. At the end of each section of the report, the reader will find a section dealing with the limited way in which the replication study differed from the initial investigation of the questions raised above.


Instruments Maturity of moral judgment was measured using Kohlberg's six-stage developmental model (Kohlberg, 1968). Using an interviewing technique in


Bunzl, Coder, and Wirt

which children and adults were presented with standard ethical dilemmas, reponses were analyzed to ascertain a final moral maturity score on a scale with a lower limit of 0 and an upper limit of 600. The role-taking measure followed Selman's interview technique (1971). The children were presented with ethical dilemmas and their responses were analyzed in terms of their ability to take the role of others in solving the dilemmas with which they were confronted. Using an eight-level developmental model of role-taking, the children's responses were classified to obtain the predominant level of role-taking exhibited by the child. Role-taking opportunities in the home were measured using a modified version of the Hess and Shipman Mastery Situation Questionnaire (Hess, Shipman, Brophy, & Bear, 1968). Parents were asked to respond to what they would do or say to a series of hypothetical situations in which their child was attempting to master some skill which brought him or her into conflict with the parents. Responses were analyzed to obtain scores for the following categories of problemsolving techniques: 1. Imperative techniques: that is, techniques of problem solving that stress the parent taking an authoritative role and telling the child what to do. 2. Instructional techniques: that is, techniques stressing telling the child what he should do, what he ought to do. 3. Personal responses: that is, techniques emphasizing making the child aware of how the child would feel it in another's place in the given situation or simply referring to the child's wishes, desires, or motivations. 4. Cognitive rational techniques: that is, techniques emphasizing pointing out to the child the logical or rational consequences of the acts in question. 5. Responses in which the solutions to the problems presented do not involve the child. 6. Solutions in which the problem presented is said not be a problem by the parent. In the language of role-taking theory, this measure was a test of roletaking opportunities. Role-taking, as defined by Flavell (1968), is the ability to understand the interaction between the self and another as seen through the other's eyes. Given that definition of role-taking, a parent who uses personal or cognitive rational techniques gives his or her child opportunities to take the role of others that the child does not get when exposed to imperatives or instructional techniques. In the replication study the maturity of moral judgment was measured using a variant of Rest's objective measure of moral judgment (Rest, Cooper, Coder, Masanz, & Anderson, 1974). In the Rest measure, subjects are asked to rate and rank responses typical of different stages of thinking to dilemmas that are presented. Carroll's (Note 7) variant of the Rest measure was designed for subjects for whom the cognitive task of ranking and writing was too taxing. In

Enhancing Moral Judgment


Carroll's measure, subjects are presented with a dilemma and a series of responses that are stereotypical of different stage thinking in responses to the dilemma. Subjects are asked to agree or disagree with these responses.

Subjects Forty-seven 8- to 10-year-old males were recruited for the program for clients whose clientele was restricted to families whose income was below the federally defined poverty level. Of the 47 subjects, 34 were white, 1 black, 10 native American, 2 MexicanAmerican. IQ scores ranged from a low of 83 to a high of 145, with a mean of 102. This findings is consistent with surveys of the Minneapolis Public School system, which show the population to be above average in IQ scores and to be above national norms on achievement tests. All of the parents fell within the bottom two classifications of the Hollingshead scale of socioeconomic status. The five experimenters were all white and college-educated; four were female. All of the experimenters fell within class 2 on the Hollingshead scale. The children were interviewed individually for 1 hour at the clinic to ascertain the level of moral maturity and their level of role-taking ability. Parents of children recruited into the program were also interviewed individually for 30 minutes at the clinic to ascertain their level of maturity of moral judgment as well as to obtain the level of role-taking opportunities in their child's social environment. Following the testing period, 40 children were randomly assigned to experimental and control groups in a ratio of 2:1. The remaining 7 subjects were not assigned either because their parents were no longer interested in the program or because the children did not attend the neighborhood public school. Of 24 subjects assigned to the experimental group, 5 did not participate in the program: Parents of 4 children changed their minds about the project, while the parent of the 5th child was forced to remove herself from the program due to her own mother's illness. Of the 19 subjects, 12 had two parents in the home; however, only in 3 cases did both parents attend the course. Of the original 16 subjects assigned to the control group, parents of 14 consented to participate in the posttest of the research. Parents of the experimental group participated in weekly, 2-hour parent education classes over a period of 5 weeks. The parent education program was carefully planned by the researchers, to teach parents skills that would enhance role-taking opportunities for children in the home. While the teaching program was complex, it had one basic purpose, namely: to increase parent skills in self-expression so as to increase opportunities for children to participate in decision making in the home. In the first class, parents were presented with alternative ways of communicating with children, to help children identify and to express feelings


Bunzl, Coder, and Wkt

(e.g., reflecting back what is heard in one's own words). In the second class, parents practiced skills in expressing to children how they made them feel (e.g., describing the problem and expressing the feelings associated with it). In the third and fourth classes, parents practiced skills necessary for the identification and modification of stable family relationships (e.g., using the techniques learned in the first two classes). In the fifth class, parents dealt with a variety of ways of solving problems (e.g., different ways of solving and comparing problems by the degree of authority exercised, autocratic techniques, logical consequences, and democratic decision making). Following a period of 3 months, the subjects in the experimental and control groups were retested for their levels of maturity of moral judgment and role-taking, while their parents were retested to measure role-taking opportunities in the home. In the replication study, parents of 20 11-year-old subjects took part in the same parent education course. Subjects were recruited from the same neighborhood as subjects involved in the first study. Subjects were matched with controls on the basis of sex, race, socioeconomic status, and marital status of their parents. In the second study, the five researchers were all college educated and in class 2 on the Hollingshead scale; one was female and white; the other four were male - one was black and three were white. The testing of all subjects took place in one sitting and were administered in group settings. Four researchers were present during the administration of the test and one of them read all of the questions. One month after the end of the intervention program, subjects were tested again. A second posttest followed 4 months later.


Each measure was scored using a coding system, so that the scorers were ignorant of the identity of subjects. The Kohlberg and Selman measures were scored using standard procedures developed by those authors. Each protocol was scored independently by two scorers, then the scorers met to discuss and reconcile any differences in their analysis of the protocols. The modified Hess and Shipman parent interaction scale was scored independently by two raters. The interrater reliability was .96. Moral maturity scores of children ranged from a low of 133 to a high of 300. Role-taking scores ranged from a low of 3 to a high of 6. Moral maturity scores of children and role-taking scores were found to correlated at a level of .63 with a significance of p < .02, thus confirming the first hypothesis that maturity of moral judgment of children is significantly related to their level of role-taking. Only one significant relationship was found between the moral maturity scores of children and the modified Hess and Shipman parent interaction measure of role-taking opportunities. Moral maturity scores of children were found

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to correlate .60 (p < .03) with Scale Six of the parent interaction scale. Scale Six is the scale that represented the total percentage of responses of parents in which they do not evaluate the hypothetical situation presented to them to constitute a conflict situation. Data on Scale Six ranged from a low of 0 to a high of 4 within a mean of 1.59. Scale Six may be seen as a measure of permissiveness. The second hypothesis was not confirmed in that no significant relationship was found between moral maturity scores of children and role-taking opportunity scores of parents. No significant relationship was found between moral maturity scores of the children and the moral maturity scores of parents. Thus, the third hypothesis was not confirmed. There was also an absence of a significant relationship between moral maturity scores of parents and both their scores on the modified Hess and Shipman measure as well as their children's scores on the Selman measure of role-taking. The comparison of change scores in moral maturity of children in the experimental as compared to the control group yielded the following results: The mean increase in the experimental group was 35.06 points in moral maturity while the mean change of the control group was 13.70, the difference of before and after scores of the experimental group being a statistically reliable gain (p

Enhancement of maturity of moral judgment by parent education.

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, Vol. 5, No. 2, 1977 Enhancement of Maturity of Moral Judgment by Parent Education I Martin Bunzl, Richard Coder...
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