Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Edwards, C.P. (1997). Morality and change: Family unity and paternal authority among Kipsigis and Abaluyia elders and students. In T.S. Weisner, C. Bradley & P.Kilbride (Eds.), in collaboration with A.B.C. Ochalla-Ayayo, J. Akong'a, & S. Wandibba. African Families and the Crisis of Social Change (pp. 45-85).Westport,Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group.


The responses to moral judgment dilemmas by 25 Kenyan from two rural tribal communities were analyzed for their assertions regarding two salient issues of morality: parental authority and family unit. The two tribal communities were the Kipsigis and Abaluyia, both from Western Kenya men, and the sample contained 14 elders/community leaders, and 11 secondary school students. The moral judgment interviews were originally collected in 1972 -1973 by trained University of Nairobi students, in order to test the cross-cultural validity of Lawrence Kohlberg’s cognitive-structuralist theory of moral development. For this study, the interviews were reanalyzed for their thematic content. The analysis revealed that all of the men—young and old, married and unmarried—shared a common vocabulary for talking about the underlying issues and moral conflicts raised by the dilemmas. The core values of respect, harmony, interdependence, and unity were not only alive and well, they were stressed over and over as the central virtues of family living by members of both tribal communities. In a stylistic variation on these themes, the ideal of seeking “reasonableness” in one’s thinking and behavior seemed more prominent among the Luhyia men, whereas maintaining “respectful” role relations seemed to preoccupy the Kipsigis elders and students.