Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Edwards, C.P. (1975). Societal complexity and moral development: A Kenyan study. Ethos, 3, 505‑527.


This study examines the moral judgment levels (as measured by Kohlberg’s 6-stage moral judgment interview) for two Kenyan samples. The first sample includes a culturally and racially group of 35 young men and 17 women studying at the University of Nairobi, while the second sample consists of 44 males and 14 females living in seven communities in the Central and Western Provinces of Kenya who were interviewed by a cadre of trained University students on their school vacation. The moral judgment interview included four hypothetical moral dilemmas and a standard set of probing questions. Three of the dilemmas were standard Kohlberg stories especially adapted for the Kenyan setting, while the fourth dilemma was constructed in Kenya. Interviews were taped and transcribed and scored using the “global method.” The findings reveal different distributions and highest scores for the two samples, with the University sample generally higher. The discussion suggests why different modes of moral decision-making are appropriate for the tribal versus national frames of reference. In terms of Kohlberg’s stage system of moral judgment, stage 3 is the type of thinking most suitable for a face-to-face community, while stage 4 is more suitable for the national stage.