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The Relationship Between Moral Development and Corrective Justice (Punishment, Restitution)

Kornelussen, Malena Matilda
June 4, 2015

Source: (1995) Ph.D. Dissertation, ST. JOHN’S UNIVERSITY (NEW YORK). 226 pp.

Kohlberg’s theory of moral development has not fully described how moral stage would relate to different forms of corrective justice–punitive/retributive, restorative/restitutive. This relationship was examined, hypothesizing that with increasing moral stage, restorative forms of justice would increase. Included in the design were additional variables suggested by the literature–sex of subject, salience of the victim, type of crime. Subjects (n = 113) from three educational levels (high school, college, graduate school) were presented with eight crime vignettes concerning property damage, property theft, bodily damage, and murder. Subjects were randomly assigned to conditions wherein the victim’s suffering was emphasized or underplayed. Subjects were first asked to prescribe corrective justice, then to rate justice options, and finally to rank order three justice options. Separate analysis of variance were conducted on the first two tasks and a chi square was performed on the rankings. Moral stage was not found to be related to the subject’s generating, attributing importance, or preferring different forms of corrective justice. All subjects generated more punitive forms of justice than restorative forms, despite rating restorative forms as important. A sex difference was found; females were more restorative than males. Empathy was discussed as an explanatory construct. Salience was not as powerful as was expected, and only interacted significantly with body damage and murder. The type of crime had a significant effect on corrective justice; murder merited significantly more punitive forms and less restorative forms. Examination of the data showed support for Kohlberg’s formulations.


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