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ERIC Number: ED453908
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2001-Apr
Pages: 19
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: N/A
Structural-Developmental Theory and Children's Experience of Nature.
Kahn, Peter H., Jr.
How do people whose identities appear so deeply connected to the land they love engage in environmentally harmful activities? This paper explores this question, presenting selected research on children's moral relationships with nature and examining the boundaries of the moral domain to more precisely delineate relations between moral constructs. Findings from five studies using structural-developmental interviews are presented. Study participants included black children and parents from a poor Houston community, Brazilian children in urban and rural parts of the Amazon jungle, and children and young adults in Lisbon, Portugal. The paper identifies anthropocentric and biocentric reasoning in the studies, finding the latter more common in older than in younger children. The paper finds that biocentric reasoning appeals to a larger ecological community than anthropocentric reasoning and uses justifications based on the intrinsic value of nature and nature's rights. The paper notes that one striking feature across the five studies was the similarity in reasoning. Cultural differences did exist, however, with the Houston child study illustrating how human violence and danger prevent children from experiencing nature. The paper suggests that biocentric reasoning may emerge in two possible ways, through daily, intimate contact with the land or as a result of modern philosophical moral discourse. The paper further suggests that morality falls within two orientations: the first focuses on obligatory requirements of right action and is embodied in most current moral theories; the second focuses on long-term character traits and personality, including courage and wisdom, and is based on what it means to be a "good" person. The paper notes that research findings provide evidence that children as young as second grade distinguish between obligatory moral acts and those left to the moral agent's discretion, but nevertheless considered good. It may be that in indigenous cultures, biocentrism is largely driven by a theory of the good. In cultures involved in addressing larger social, ecological, and technological problems, a theory of the right potentially leads the way toward a more ecologically holistic and sustainability morality. The paper suggests that although developmental psychologists have largely investigated morality in terms of a theory of the right, developmental theory could profit by extending the moral domain to include a theory of the good. Both types of theories might be investigated in the context of the human relationship with nature. (Contains 62 references.) (KB)
Publication Type: Information Analyses; Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A