Social Hierarchy, Social Conflicts, and Moral Development

Elliot Turiel

in International Perspectives on Youth Conflict and Development

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780195178425
Published online April 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199958528 | DOI:
Social Hierarchy, Social Conflicts, and Moral Development

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This chapter offers a theoretical perspective on social and moral development, relevant to discussions of youth conflict and violence. Rejecting the idea that cultures have singular integrated patterns of moral functioning, it explains that a major source of conflict is social hierarchy characterized by dominant and subordinate positions, such as the positions of women and ethnic minority groups across many societies. The chapter reviews research examining conflicts across social developmental domains, in terms of the development of understandings of morality (harm, justice, and rights), social conventions, and personal prerogatives or entitlements. These categories of moral judgment are psycho-social practices that occur across cultures as sources of conflict, disagreement, and struggle. An example of the utility of this theory is its explanation, for example, of why children who are identified as aggressive make moral judgments similar to those of other children but differ in their justifications about retaliation. Examples of group conflicts are also considered, including acts of violence stemming from social hierarchies and cultural practices, such as acts of conflict and resistance by women in contexts in India and Iran where women's freedom of movement and self-determination are much more restricted than men's.

Keywords: youth conflict; youth violence; social development; moral development; social hierarchy; social conflict; social resistance

Chapter.  6693 words. 

Subjects: Developmental Psychology

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