Care-based and justice-based morality in kindergarten

Mun Amanda WONG

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Traditionally, developmental psychologists considered care-based and justice-based theories of morality as relatively separate aspects of morality. Jorgensen (2006) argues that Gilligan's theory (morality of care) is an expansion to Kohlberg's theory (morality of justice). This study examines 1) different types of rules (moral and social-conventional rules) that were used by children in the classroom; 2) children's tendency to use rules to maintain justice and to care about the needs of others; and 3) children's justifications for negotiating ownership rights or nonsharing behavior. Data analysis was based on 3 teachers' observation records (anecdotes) of 5-year-olds's use of rules in two classrooms in one academic year. Children spontaneously used and talked about moral and social conventional rules in the classroom. Most of them used moral rules for the care of others, no gender differences were found. The children tended to make two types of justifications for sharing behavior: justifications based on the classroom rule formulated by the teacher, and justifications based on positive justice. Nonsharing was justified by the rule of first possession that a child could temporarily own the resource when he or she was using it, and could use it as long as he or she liked; and by the argument that a child could negotiate and change the sharing rule with peers. Implications for classroom practice are discussed at the end of the paper. Copyright © 2010 Common Ground, Mun Wong.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-284
JournalThe International Journal of Learning
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2010


Wong, M. (2010). Care-based and justice-based morality in kindergarten. The International Journal of Learning, 17(9), 271-284. doi: 10.18848/1447-9494/CGP/v17i09/47247


  • Morality of care
  • Morality of justice
  • Preschool children
  • School rules


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