Cross National Differences in Prosocial Moral Reasoning

Topics: Sociology, Psychology, Morality Pages: 8 (2735 words) Published: April 19, 2011
There have been many studies in the field of prosocial moral reasoning and on prosocial behaviours over the decade. Researchers have constantly tried to evaluate reasons behind these, mainly in children and adolescents. Prosocial behaviour can be defined as helping that is not motivated by professional obligations and is not based on organizations, other than for charities (Hewstone, Stroebe, & Jonas, 2007). Prosocial moral reasoning is, reasoning about moral dilemmas in which one person's needs or desires conflict with those of needy others (Eisenberg, 1986). As children and adolescents are often faced with situations where their own interests conflict with those in need, researchers have been found to investigate the decisions they might make in such situations where proper external course of actions are not present or unclear. To date, there is simply little research on cross-national differences in prosocial moral reasoning that has been conducted over the years. However, cross-national studies on prosocial moral reasoning of children and adolescents in industrialized countries and age related changes in prosocial moral judgment have been identified. For instance, studies by Carlo, Eisenberg, Silvia, Da Silva, and Frohlich (1996), Boehnke, Silbereisen, Eisenberg, Reykowski, and Polomari (1989), Eisenberg, Zhou, and Koller (2001), and Trommsdorff, Friedlmeier, and Mayer (2007), to name a few, have contributed to the understanding of cross-national differences in prosocial moral reasoning.

Research methods

Prosocial Reasoning Objective Measure
The prosocial reasoning objective measure (PROM) has been used as the main instrument in examining prosocial moral reasoning in adolescents in studies conducted by Carlo et al. (1996) and Eisenberg et al. (2001, 2002, 1995). The majority of research in the past have been carried out by the use of interview measures of moral reasoning. However, Carlo et al. (1992) introduced a paper and pencil measure of prosocial moral reasoning which has been used in many studies to date. This measure has been useful in examining the underlying reasons for moral reasoning and was successful in translating it into languages such as Portuguese (Carlo et al., 1996). The PROM included seven story dilemmas intended to raise a conflict between the needs, wants and desires of the actor’s and those of another in need of help. The story dilemmas included, choosing to get an injured child's parents versus going to a friend's party, going to the beach with friends versus helping a peer to study for and pass a math test, donating blood to a needy other versus losing time and money at work and school and helping a peer who is being teased versus risking rejection from peers, to name a few. The protagonists in the stories were of the same gender as the participants and the stories were randomly assigned for each participant. This measure was not only useful but also proved to be a reliable measure of prosocial moral reasoning. Furthermore, the method was easier to implement on the participants and the data collection was less tedious for the researchers.

A number of studies such as Eisenberg et al. (1991), Eisenberg et al. (2004), Pakaslahti, Karjalainen, and K-J (2002), and Boehnke et al. (1989), have used questionnaires as a method of assessing prosocial moral reasoning and prosocial behaviours of the participants. A questionnaire containing moral reasoning stories was used in the study of Eisenbrg et al. (1991) to asses the moral reasoning of adolescents in the United States. This contained stories such as, the costs of trying to help in giving blood to another versus losing time at school. Eisenberg et al. (2004) used a child behavioural questionnaire to asses the Indonesian children’s prosocial behaviour and Pakaslahti et al. (2002) used a self-rating questionnaire to examine 1654 Finnish adolescents’ prosocial problem-solving strategies and prosocial behaviour....
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