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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2016  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 255-259

Psycho-socio-moral development of the youth in Iran and Germany: A cross-cultural research

1 Siavoushan Psychological Center, Tehran, Iran
2 Faculty of Psychology, Hamburg University, Hamburg, Germany

Date of Web Publication2-Sep-2016

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Seyed Hossein Modjtahedi
Siavoushan Psychological Center, Branch 2, Number 2, Falsafi Street, Shariaty Street, Tehran
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2395-2296.189667

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Objectives: The aim of this cross-cultural research is to study and compare the psycho-socio-moral development of the youth in Iran and Germany in the Eastern and Western society considering different components of both societies. Materials and Methods: The statistical universe of this research is 16–20-year-old high school students in Hamburg and Tehran. Three hundred students (150 females and 150 males) were randomly chosen through multi-stage sampling from the Northern, Central, and Southern parts of each of these two cities. A test similar to Kohlberg's moral measurement was made to assess the level of moral development. This test was compiled regarding cultural variables (Iranian, German, mythic, and modern) and new conflict triggering issues that were not considered in Kohlberg's moral measurement and it was standardized in two languages and cultures simultaneously. Back-translation cross-cultural methodology was used to assess the equivalence of the two tests in two languages and two cultures. Result: To compare the moral development of Iranian and German youths, a test of mean for independent groups was carried out with the hypothesis that cultural and time components will significantly influence the results. According to the final results, moral development is significantly higher in German youths than in Iranian youths. Although the mentioned measure had reflected other conflicts in the different cultural atmosphere, it was not influential except in the case of the fourth story. Conclusion: This finding implies the need for revising the moral training procedures based on developmental psychology.

Keywords: Cross-cultural research, dilemma(s), moral development, moral training, psycho-socio-moral development

How to cite this article:
Modjtahedi SH, Vagt G, Probst P. Psycho-socio-moral development of the youth in Iran and Germany: A cross-cultural research. Int J Educ Psychol Res 2016;2:255-9

How to cite this URL:
Modjtahedi SH, Vagt G, Probst P. Psycho-socio-moral development of the youth in Iran and Germany: A cross-cultural research. Int J Educ Psychol Res [serial online] 2016 [cited 2020 Jul 7];2:255-9. Available from: http://www.ijeprjournal.org/text.asp?2016/2/4/255/189667

  Introduction Top

Today, just like that the cognition, language, emotions, the ability to move, etc., psycho-socio-moral development, is one of the most important matters being scientifically assessed, explained, and analyzed in developmental psychology. This is because socio-moral development changes in an individual's lifetime, therefore, different age groups should be considered in such assessments.[1],[2] On the other hand, one of the most challenging matters in socio-moral development is culture.[3],[4],[5],[6],[7],[8],[9],[10],[11],[12],[13],[14],[15],[16] Piaget and Kohlberg have major, universal theories on moral development, a lot of research have been done with different results either approving or disapproving these theories.[1],[17],[18],[19],[20],[21] Kohlberg's psychological measures were also revised, criticized, and questioned. Other psychological tests have been made with fidelity to the generality of Kohlberg's theory such as Defining Issues Test and Moralisches Urteil Test.[7],[8],[20],[22],[23] The present research has considered three major deficiencies in the Kohlberg and post-Kohlberg theory and psychometric tool-making:

  • Although culture can be an influential factor in socio-moral development, the cross-cultural methodology was not considered in standardization of measuring tools
  • The plot and setting of the dilemmas were not adapted for different cultures
  • Some psycho-socio-dilemmas are absent in Kohlberg's psychological tests. None of these points has been considered in criticism and analysis of Kohlberg's theory and psychological tests. It should also be noted that the role of culture in moral psychology is a concern to some researchers, regarding this concern some cross-cultural and intracultural studies have been carried out in this field, and some of the most important will be mentioned.

In an empirical research, Neselroade and Baltes [11] have stated that individual change is hidden in change of the society, and social change and development is influenced by cultural factors. Hofstede [24] has compared the relationship between social values and geographical-financial-climate factors in 40 countries. Although Hofstede was not able to propose different social values in different countries theoretically, he has come to good descriptive findings. In a longitudinal study on German students from preschool to the fourth grade of elementary school, Eisenberg et al.[25] found that their hedonistic perspective decreased, but their interpersonal social agreements had increased. Nisan [26] tried to show the relationship between moral and convention but did not scientifically consider cultural aspects in the research. For this reason, Smetana and Nacci [14] have criticized and questioned his findings in a cross-cultural study. Nisan [27] has assessed the difference between traditional and secular traditions in a relationship with moral norms and social contracts. However, the deficiency of this study was that developed societies were not included. Bersoff et al.[28] have studied the differences between collectivist and individualist cultures such as India and America in interpreting social responsibility in relationship with moral development and analyzed the difference of viewpoint regarding cultural differences.

Keller [29] has done research on the development of young rural and urban university students in Iceland, America, Europe, Japan, and China and has stressed the significant role of culture in this development (compared with: Keller et al.)[30] Cattell and Gorouch [4] have focused on national morality in a cross-cultural study. One of the research groups has done research on moral education in 16 Eastern nations. These countries consisted of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burma, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Korea Republic, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. In this research, children were helped so that they could develop as a responsible resident, reach humane agreements, and adapt more quickly to social changes. According to results of this research, there is a bilateral interaction between moral perception and moral behavior. Furthermore, socio-financial conditions influence moral behavior, and there is a relationship between morality and religion.[31] Bersoff et al.[28] have assessed Indian and American societies regarding moral perspective and based on the differences have presented the effect of culture on the development of sense of responsibility and morality. Thoma and Rest [32] also stressed the relationship between cultural norms and values. Narvaez et al.,[10] have considered the individual moral judgment and cultural ideology and have stated that moral judgment produces moral thought.

Graff and Onkim [33] have carried out a cross-cultural research on German and Korean youths and assessed the difference in their moral perspectives, that is, a rooted in cultural differences. On the other hand, results of the research done in 40 countries showed there was no certain national character.[34]

Given that Iranian and German societies are reflecting cultures of East and West and each has an influential history and civilization, the present research is also considering the socio-moral development of youths in these two societies. Based on the major developmental psychology theories in the domain of moral and their cross-cultural psychometric tests, this research will challenge the effect of culture. It has also focused on the socio-cultural differences of two societies, one modern and the other transitional (changing from traditional to modern), each having their own specific socio-cultural features in relationship with moral development in these societies.

The main hypothesis was that in general there was no significant difference in the level of socio-moral development in these two societies. Only when the cultural atmosphere of tests is proportional to the culture of those being tested, a significantly higher level of socio-moral development is shown in comparison to those being tested in the other society.

  Materials and Methods Top

The present research is an experimental one. The statistical universe of this research is 16–20-year-old high school students in Tehran and Hamburg. Considering the population of this statistical universe and the sampling size, 300 students, 16–20-year-old high school students (150 males and 150 females) were randomly chosen through multi-stage sampling from the Northern, Central, and Southern parts of each of these two cities. Tests and questionnaires were given to subjects to answer in the same and pleasant conditions. The measures that were made and standardized consisted of five stories: Two stories set in the German cultural atmosphere (mythic and modern), two stories set in the Iranian cultural atmosphere (mythic and modern), and one story by Kohlberg. All stories, based on the questions asked at the end (moral judgments and reasoning about them), placed the reader in a dilemma. It should be noted that a psychological test was made and standardized using the cross-cultural methodology in the Iranian and German culture for this research.

The tools of measurement

The main tool in this research is the Kohlberg-Vagt-Modjitahedi-5 Geschichte for measuring the level of moral development. This measure was made such as Kohlberg's moral measurement but the cultural variables (Iranian, German, mythic, and modern) and new dilemmas that were not considered in Kohlberg's measurement such as the conflict between personal, familial, occupational, social, political, national, and humane concerns and the responsibility toward them, were taken into consideration and it was simultaneously standardized in two languages and two cultures.

The dilemmas were first written in Farsi and then approved by two specialists in psychology and two in Farsi literature regarding the structure, content, and psychological measuring aspects. It was then given to ten subjects, marked, and revised based on the subjects' feedbacks. In the next step, the Farsi written texts were translated from Farsi to German by a specialist in German literature using back-translation which is one of the credible methods in cross-cultural research.[35] The test that was translated into German was also given to ten subjects, marked, and revised based on the subjects' feedbacks. Then the German text was again translated from German to Farsi by a Farsi speaking specialist in German literature. The comparison of the two Farsi texts showed a significantly higher homogeneity which was a sign of comparability of the German and Farsi texts. Then 50 youths in the mentioned age range in Hamburg and Tehran were tested with the psychological test that had been made. The correlation of markings and estimation for the level of socio-moral development made by two assessors was 74–95% in the Farsi text and 69–92% in the German one which shows the acceptable objectivity of the test.

The homogeneity and inter-correlation between the stories were 42%, calculated by Cronbach-Alpha. Given the different cultural atmospheres in the dilemmas, it was hypothesized that when the tests are given in different cultures they would bring about different results. It should be reminded that this inter-correlation was also not considered in Kohlberg's dilemmas (forms A, B, and C).[36],[37]

The reliability of the test was calculated by retesting which was 79% in the Farsi text and 81% in the German one. These figures show very acceptable reliability.

The content validity of the test was confirmated by the investigation of 4 developmental - clinical Psychologists in Germany and in Iran. Theoritical background was based on kohlbery' s theory.[38],[39]

  Results Top

T-test for independent groups was used to compare the level of moral development in Iranian and German youths with the hypothesis that cultural and time components will significantly influence the results.

According to the results, German youths had a significantly higher level of moral development in comparison to Iranian youths. Although the mentioned measure reflected other conflicts in different cultural atmospheres, it was generally not influential except in the case of the fourth story, which was set in the west modern cultural atmosphere.

Descriptive and inferential findings for the variables (dilemmas) in the Iranian and German society are presented in [Table 1].
Table 1: Mean and SD of subjects and t-test for independent groups

Click here to view

  Discussion Top

Interpreting the significant differences showing the higher level of moral development in German youths in comparison to Iranian youths is not easily possible. Moreover, analyzing all of its aspects require other perspectives such as socio-logical, psychological, anthropological, cultural, and developmental. However, from a psychological perspective, the following should be stated:

  • The structure of the mentioned measure is based on Kohlberg's theory [36] and Piaget's perspectives.[40] Its assessment system is based on a modern definition of morality. Despite the amount of effort made to make the cultural atmospheres of the stories different, results showed that the consistency of the results was not related to culture and time, and this finding is in harmony with the claim that the moral development theories being discussed are universal and culture-free. It should be remembered that although the cultural atmospheres of the dilemmas are different, the pyramid of importance of influential values on the assessment is related to these theories [1],[7],[8],[9],[12],[18],[19],[20],[40],[41],[42],[43],[44]
  • Despite the fact that values such as others' lives, freedom, and in a more expanded meaning “human rights” have long existed in our religious and national culture, today it is not being stressed in moral education as much as should be. In the most ancient religious book of Iran named “Gahan,” it has been stated that Ahura Mazda has granted human beings freedom and no one can take it away from them. Also in Islamic quotes, it is mentioned to human beings that they have been created free and that they should not be under the control of others. In ancient Iran, even harming a plant was known to be a big sin and those responsible could be punished by law. In the Holy Quran, saving peoples' lives has been stressed saying that killing one is identical to killing all reflecting how disastrous taking others' lives is [45],[46]
  • It has been 150 years that Iran has not invaded any country. This is while Germany has the history of two world wars and approximately seventy million people being killed in these wars. This is why German intellectuals have become more sensitive about the value of life and have put more effort in spreading this moral sensitivity (compared with)[47]
  • The content of the dilemma causing stories is defined in relation with psycho-socio-modern concepts such as national identity and social responsibility which may not yet be internalized in the psyche of Iranian mass
  • Teaching morals has been structured in the Western educational system and is being taught to achieve socio-moral development in students. This type of education which is being given democratically rather than through a compulsory unilateral religious educating system can be influential and probably the reason for the significant difference in moral development between German and Iranian youths.[5], 15, [48],[49],[50]


A special thanks to all high school students in Tehran and Hamburg and the principals of the high schools that took park in this research. We also appreciate the help of Fatemeh Mobasheri, Shirin Gorgani, Christine Klafek, Shwantche Bekman, Seyed Mahmoud Mojtahedi, Seyed Mohammad Heydar Hosseini Mousavi, Dr. Adis Kraskian, Houtan Behjat Mohammadi, Saman Mazaheri, and Keyhan Khadiv, with which without, this research would have never got underway.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

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