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Moral Development and Bullying in Children Essay

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Updated: Sep 20th, 2022

The general discussion of moral development in children is broad and covers various areas, such as taking an interest in other people’s welfare. Students experience personality changes during growth, as explained in Kohlberg’s and Gilligan’s theories. The development of kids into adults is influenced by several factors, such as bullying in schools. Harassment is expressed in different ways, and some are relatively more prone to specific areas than others.

Each bully has a different style and applies varied tactics to control and intimidate the victims. The most common type is a physical attack, which is evident within any setting (Canty et al., 2016). It can exhibit in different ways, such as hitting children whom the bully has gained power over. The understanding of moral development following the theories of Kohlberg and Gilligan can provide useful solutions to eliminating bullying in American schools.

Moral Development’s Perspective on Bullying and Teen Suicide

Harassment in any context is a hostile act which ought to be condemned explicitly. In most schools, it is a common occurrence, and according to current statistics, in almost every three students, one is a victim of bullying (Arnett, 2000). At least at one point in one’s life, they have had to deal with aggression, either direct or indirect, as a witness or a victim. Typically, several aspects are considered in categorizing acts as bullying or not.

These features include unbalanced power, distress, provocation, malicious intent, and repeated occurrence. It can happen either in or outside the school but is primarily due to the relationships formed within the institutions’ setting. Victimization is commonly demonstrated in classroom environments in any form and to anyone.

From a developmental perspective, the unique characteristics of bullying and its impact can be linked to teen suicide. The various implications of aggression affect different elements of a child’s life and can continue even past childhood into adulthood. Some of the results of abuse are depression, low self-esteem, and suicidal nature (Canty et al., 2016). Adolescents who experience intimidation from others are more likely to encounter emotional distress and instability. As a result, some might respond to the assault by taking their lives or disconnecting themselves from the rest. In essence, abuse plays a significant role in the moral development of children. School-age children are primarily vulnerable because they focus highly on peer relationships, which is where bullies target. Coercion has numerous consequences, especially emotionally, and can adversely impact mental health.

Application of Kohlberg’s Approach in School Programs to Eliminate Harassment

Kohlberg’s moral development model is applicable in schools in segments where standards, rules, and consequences for one’s actions are involved. The theory tracks the stage of one’s reasoning while categorizing the individual into one of the six levels (Mossler & Ziegler, 2016). Students learn to behave appropriately during grades one and two to avoid punishment and receive awards, respectively. From step three onwards, they learn to care for others and respond positively to accountability for their actions. Students can be allowed to design the classroom’s code of conduct.

Moreover, the children can be engaged in group projects where the common goal is to understand the curriculum. When the students victimize others, the disciplinary consequence should include a written self-evaluation. The review will help a child think through their misbehavior and develop a solution for future character improvement (Arnett, 2000). Finally, the programs include role play where the students are made to consider other people’s viewpoints. Understanding the world from the viewpoint of others is likely to build compassion and, thus, minimize aggression.

Gilligan’s Critique of Kohlberg’s Theory

The primary critique of Kohlberg’s ideas was based on gender variations in people’s reasoning, especially under the influence of emotions. Gilligan criticized Kohlberg’s approach since it was biased against women and did not appreciate the difference in features affecting decision making between males and females (Mossler & Ziegler, 2016). Besides, she highlighted that Lawrence’s ideology was narrow in his emphasis on the upper-class middle-value perspective (Mossler & Ziegler, 2016). Gilligan’s concepts are based on the principle that female psychology and its values remarkably differ from men’s (Canty et al., 2016).

According to her, women are relatively more inclined to compassion, kindness, and interpersonal relationships, which significantly affect their choices (Mossler & Ziegler, 2016). Gilligan’s explanation further broadens the contrast that women are not inferior to men; instead, they are more loving. The alternative solution is building a methodology which deviates from Kohlberg’s idea of classifying mistreatment as a disagreement. Victimization is not a discord since ambivalence attracts sympathy in most children. Therefore, this issue should be solved by equipping the victims with a leveraging attitude instead of succumbing to it.

Comparison of the Models

The two models can account for the wayward inconsiderate behavior of some children. Kohlberg’s suggestions outline that bullying, when analyzed through a justice-based perspective, is a conflict (Mossler & Ziegler, 2016). As such, the two opposing groups are the bullies and the victims. However, only one of them can have complete power over the other. Consequently, one can conclude that the dilemma’s solution does not solve the conflict since it is more of a verdict.

The acts of aggression are essentially seen as the situations of hardship where both parties experience it. The solution to abuse is, thus, sought in a way to divert or eradicate it (Mossler & Ziegler, 2016). Diverse theoretical tools available for the analysis of males and females are necessary. It has been discovered that the thought process is not based strictly on a comparable foundation. Girls and boys respond to the questions of morality contrarily, with more emphasis on care (Arnett, 2000). Therefore, it is imperative that the analysis tools should be dissimilar to solve student intimidation better.

The Success of the Program

The bullying prevention of District 38 set is relatively successful since it instills ethics into children’s reasoning and application to daily life. The program engages students to feel they are a part of the creation of values, hence, building their capacity to empathize. Other programs integrate Kohlberg’s and Gilligan’s ideas to train victims to combat harassment. Such means include disarming the attacker, seeking help, using humor to escape the situation, and positive self-talk.

For example, if an individual is mocked by someone, they ought to agree with the aggressor, who will lose power leverage. The theories by Kohlberg and Gilligan provide relevant insights into the stages of implementing preventive and coping mechanisms. They highlight the steps of virtue advancement, thus, the concepts of response or immunity to attacks can be applied systematically. Therefore, prevention techniques work better as children’s moral capacity is advanced chronologically for both bullies and victims.


Intentional attacks on people are a common phenomenon in most schools. Harassment has a severe emotional response both for the bully and victim. The students who experience aggression in schools tend to have lower self-esteem, poor performance, and quickly isolate themselves from the rest. As a result, they develop a negative perspective on school, have a smaller social circle, and some can experience physical symptoms.

The observable signs, such as sleeping problems, are accompanied by mental health instability, including anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and depression. Kohlberg and Gilligan’s explanations can be applied to the control and management of wayward behaviors. The existing programs can be advanced further to minimize such acts better. The additional effort can help the students build socially acceptable codes of conduct which are actively aware of other people’s wellbeing.


Arnett, J. J. (2000). Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties. American Psychologist, 55(5), 469–480. Web.

Canty, J., Stubbe, M., Steers, D., & Collings, S. (2016). The trouble with bullying. Children and Society, 30(1), 48–58. Web.

Mossler, R. A., & Ziegler, M. (2016). Understanding development: A lifespan perspective. Bridgepoint Education.

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