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Moral Development Essay
Damon's model works on the basis that children's real life reasoning is often about
whether or not something is fair. This most commonly occurs when something is desired
by more than one person and so it must be shared out equally, ideas about how this
should be done is referred to by Damon, as distributive justice.
The model that illustrates the progression of distributive justice consists of five levels:
simple selfinterest, selfinterest with arbitrary justification, strict equality, distributive
calculations and needs/benevolence. Level one and two, focus on personal gain, basing
your reasoning purely on what the individual can get out of the negotiation. A classic
example would be sharing your toy with a friend when they come to your house; for the
simple reason that when you go to their house you should then be allowed to use their
Level three, involves abiding to strict rules about sharing, these are seen as inflexible and
controlled by an outside force. This level mirrors Piaget's moral realism stage where a
child's morality is not selfchosen but simply reflects the moral codes of others, otherwise
known as heteronomous morality. Level four, requires the individual to base their
decisions over distribution through calculations, for example who worked the hardest. It
marks the shift that can be seen in other theorist's models; in Piaget's it is the move from
realism to relativism and in Kohlberg it is the movement from stage four (good boy/good
girl) to stage 5 (social contract). These all involve moving from a state where your
reasoning is affected by others to a state where your moral code is internalised. The final
level, level five, is where reasoning is based on the understanding that some individuals
should have special consideration due to a disadvantage, this could be the smallest person
being able to sit at the front of the class.
The similarities that can be seen between Damon's model and the models of other
theorists, strongly supports these transitions in morality and strengthens the ecological
validity of the theory.
To investigate his model, Damon utilised the moral dilemma technique. Children aged 410
were involved in the scenario of sharing out their class proceedings from a painting sale
between their class mates. Within this class some were more productive, some more well
behaved and some poorer than their peers. Results showed that children aged 45 focused
on selfinterest basing their reasoning on arbitrary justification, children aged 57 believed
in strict equality when sharing the profits and children aged 7+ took into account
individual merit and needs/benevolence. These results directly map onto the model
proposed by Damon, supporting a shift in sophisticated reasoning, running parallel with
age, therefore increasing the validity of the theory.
Although our parents influence our understanding of the concept of distributive justice,
Krugar points out that the real life `give and take' of peer interaction is more influential.
This means that the results of the painting sale dilemma study will have a high predictive
validity because the dilemma takes place within a peer setting.
A study was conducted by McGillicuddy De Lisa to test the predictions that young children
were more likely to be more inflexible that older children when applying the rules of
distributive justice. Kindergarten, third grade and sixth grade children were presented
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In both groups
there was a member who was the oldest, most productive or poorest, one group however
were strangers and the other were friends. Results showed that the kindergartners'
allocations did not vary with the relationship of the characters or their neediness. Older
children however allocated more money to needy friends than to needy strangers and
more to productive strangers than to productive friends. No gender differences were
found. It can therefore be concluded that the findings do support Damon's levels of
distributive justice.…read more