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Moral Development

Moral Development

Internalization versus situational factors

Some specific moral determinants

Major questions

Culture and cultural agents

Stages of moral development

Factors in development

Neurotic behavior

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The study of moral development has long been recognized as a key problem area in the social sciences, as indicated by McDougall’s statement that “the fundamental problem of social psychology is the moralization of the individual by the society” (1908) or by Freud’s statement that “the sense of guilt is the most important problem in the evolution of culture” (1930). However, it is hard to make clear distinctions between moral development and the broader area of social development and socialization (learning to conform to cultural standards). Such topics as the development of patterns of cooperation, of aggression, or of industry and achievement are generally studied under the broader rubric of socialization, although they may also be viewed as moral development insofar as cooperation or nonaggression are considered “good” and insofar as they involve learning to conform to cultural rules. The past decade has witnessed a great deal of research on moral development (reviewed in Kohlberg 1963a; 1964; Hoffman 1966) viewed as the particular aspects of socialization involved in internalization, i.e., learning to conform to rules in situations that arouse impulses to transgress and that lack surveillance and sanctions. In this research literature, moral development has usually been conceived of as the increase in internalization of basic cultural rules. Various theories and researchers have stressed three different aspects of internalization: the behavioral, emotional, and judgmental aspects of moral action.

A behavioral criterion of internalization is that of intrinsically motivated conformity, or resistance to temptation. Such a conception is implicit in the common-sense notion of “moral character” which formed the basis of earlier American research on morality; Hartshorne and May (Columbia University 1928–1930) defined moral character as a set of culturally defined virtues, such as honesty, which could be measured by observing the child’s ability to resist the temptation to break a rule (for example, against cheating) when it seemed unlikely that he would be detected or punished.

A second criterion of the existence of internalized standards is the emotion of guilt, that is, of self-punitive, self-critical reactions of remorse and anxiety after transgression of cultural standards. Both psychoanalytic and learning theories of conscience have focused upon guilt as the basic motive of morality. It has been assumed that a child behaves morally to avoid guilt.

In addition to conduct that conforms with a standard and to emotional reactions of remorse after transgression, the internalization of a standard implies a capacity to make judgments in terms of that standard and to justify maintaining the standard to oneself and to others. This judgmental side of moral development has formed the focus of the work and theory of Piaget (1932) and others (Kohlberg 1966).

In recent research, then, answers to the problems of moral development have been sought by examining how socialization factors, such as amount, type, and condition of punishment and reward, or opportunities for identification with parents, are related to individual differences in resistance to temptation, guilt, or moral judgment.

Internalization versus situational factors

Kohlberg has argued (1964; 1966) that the study of internalized socialization has cast a limited light upon the classical problems of moral development. Problems have arisen, in the first place, because internalization does not represent a clear dimension of temporal development. Experimental measures of resistance to temptation (honesty) do not indicate any clear age trends toward greater occurrence of honesty from the preschool years to adolescence. Projective measures of intensity of guilt or moral anxiety also do not indicate clear age trends, except in terms of rather rapid and cognitively based age changes in the years eight to twelve, and these changes are in the direction of defining moral anxiety as a reaction to moral self-judgment rather than to more diffuse external events. While clear trends of development have been found in moral judgment, these trends cannot be easily considered to be trends of internalized socialization as such.

In the second place, problems have arisen because a distinctive set of socialization factors has not been found that can be considered as an antecedent of moral internalization. Research results suggest that the conditions which facilitate moral internalization (e.g., parental warmth) are the same conditions which, in general, facilitate the learning of nonmoral cultural rules and expectations. In other words, this research does not indicate a distinct area of internalization or of “conscience”—of moral control linked to guilt feelings—that is distinct from general processes of social learning and social control.

Recent research findings, then, reinforce the skeptical conclusions about both common-sense and psychoanalytic conceptions of a faculty of conscience or superego. Such conclusions were the major results of Hartshorne and May’s monumental studies of moral character. These scholars found that the most influential factors determining resistance to temptation to cheat or disobey were situational factors rather than a fixed, individual moral character trait of honesty. The first finding that led to this conclusion was the low predictability of cheating in one situation for cheating in another. A second finding was that children could not be divided into two groups—the “cheaters” and the “honest children.” Children’s cheating scores were distributed in bell-curve fashion around an average score indicative of moderate cheating. A third finding was the importance of the expediency aspect of the decision to cheat; that is, the tendency to cheat depends upon the degree of risk of detection and the effort required to cheat. Children who cheated in more risky situations also cheated in less risky situations. Thus, noncheaters appeared to act more from caution than honesty. A fourth finding was that even when honest behavior was not dictated by concern about punishment or detection, it was largely determined by immediate situational factors of group approval and example (as opposed to determination by internal moral values). Some classrooms showed a high tendency to cheat, while other, seemingly identically composed classrooms in the same school showed little tendency to cheat. A fifth finding was that moral knowledge or values had little apparent influence on moral conduct, since the correlations between verbal tests of moral knowledge and experimental tests of moral conduct were low. A sixth finding was that where moral values did seem to be related to conduct, these values were somewhat specific to the child’s social class or group. Rather than being a universal ideal, honesty was more characteristic of the middle-class child and seemed less relevant to the lower-class child.

The Hartshorne and May findings, then, suggested that honest behavior is determined by situational factors of punishment, reward, group pressures, and group values, rather than by an internal disposition of conscience or character. The general problem raised by these findings is whether moral traits describing moral character are simply value judgments of behavior made by the group or whether they correspond to some inner disposition in the person and hence help us to understand and predict his behavior. Psychologists have usually used “moral development” to mean the formation of internal standards that control behavior. This conception of an internalized standard seems to require some cross-situational generality. It is not useful to speak of behavior as being determined by an internalized rule like “Be honest” or “Don’t cheat” if the rule does not predict the individual’s behavior and situational forcesdo. We do not find it useful to speak of the morality of the dog or the rat, although both have been trained to “resist temptation” in specific situations. We do assume, however, that the animal’s resistance to temptation is produced by anxiety aroused by situational cues, rather than by regard for a moral rule. To the extent that human resistance to temptation is not general across situations to which a moral rule pertains and must therefore be predicted by purely situational factors, it would seem to be no more useful to describe human behavior as the result of conscience than it is to describe animal behavior in these terms.

Since MacKinnon’s research (1938), studies of morality have generally attempted to cope with Hartshorne and May’s findings by defining moral internalization in terms of superego, rather than “moral character.” Researchers have recognized that moral action was not the direct result of an internal disposition toward honesty or moral character and instead have assumed it to be the result of a complex balance of internal and external forces, including strength of drives aroused by temptation, defenses against these drives, situational fears, group pressures, etc. However, one distinctively moral force, guilt, was assumed to be a major determinant of action in situations of moral conflict or temptation. The disposition to feel guilt was assumed to be the result of early childhood identifications and experiences of punishment, rather than of situational forces. Accordingly, while moral behavior might be situation-specific, one might still be able to isolate a general process of moral internalization or guilt formation having the same childhood antecedents, regardless of the particular moral situation involved. These childhood antecedents should then have some value for predicting guilt and resistance to temptation in any situation, even though they did not produce a consistent disposition of moral character.

Subsequent research on parental antecedents of guilt and of resistance to temptation has fulfilled this hope only to a very limited extent. Usually the child-rearing correlates of children’s resistance to temptation in one situation have not proven to be correlates of resistance in another, and the child-rearing correlates of projective test measures of guilt have not proven to be correlates of actual moral behavior. Finally, projective measures of guilt have not proven to predict consistently actual resistance to temptation behavior (reviewed in Kohlberg 1963a).

Kohlberg (1964) has argued that this more recent research evidence is consistent with the Hartshorne and May findings by suggesting that the variables leading to resistance to temptation arise primarily from the situation rather than from fixed habits, character traits like honesty, or permanent superego dispositions to feel guilt. Following Burton’s analysis of honesty (1963), however, one would agree that there is some personal consistency in honest behavior or some determination of honest behavior by general personality traits. These traits, however, seem not to be traits of moral conscience but rather a set of ego abilities corresponding to common-sense notions of prudence and will. In a tradition of moral psychology dating back to the British associationists and utilitarians, moral character is believed to result from practical judgment or reason. In this view, moral action (action based on rational consideration of how one’s action affects others) requires much the same capacities as does prudent action (action based on rational consideration of how it affects the self’s long-range interests). Both require empathy (the ability to predict the reactions of others to action), foresight (the ability to predict longrange consequences of action), judgment (the ability to weigh alternatives and probabilities), and capacity to delay (delay of response and preference for the distant, greater gratification over the immediate, lesser gratification). In psychoanalytic theory these factors are included with other aspects of decision making and emotional control in the concept of ego strength. Some of the ego abilities which have been found to correlate consistently with experimental and rating measures of children’s honesty include the following: intelligence (IQ); delay of gratification (preference for a larger reward in the future over a smaller reward in the present); and attention (stability and persistence of attention in simple experimental tasks). [SeeDecision Making, article on Psychologicalaspects.]

These findings suggest that one can predict honesty about as well from an individual’s behavior in cognitive-task or other nonmoral situations as one can from his behavior in other situations involving honesty. This, in turn, implies that the study of moral behavior in terms of early experiences centering on specifically moral training of honesty, guilt, etc., is less likely to be fruitful than is a study of moral behavior in terms of more general experiences relevant to ego development and ego control in nonmoral contexts.

Some specific moral determinants

While the findings stressed so far suggest the determination of moral action by nonmoral situational and personality forces, there are also some findings suggesting the determination of action by specifically moral values. This research conclusion should not be taken to mean that there is any direct correspondence between conformity of verbal moral beliefs or attitudes and conformity of moral action. Subjects who say that cheating is very bad or that they would never cheat are as likely to cheat in an experimental situation as are subjects who express a qualified view as to the badness of cheating (studies reviewed in Kohlberg 1966). Apparently, the same willingness to deceive in order to make a good appearance which impels cheating also impels the child to make pious moral statements about cheating.

A conclusion more consistent with actual research is that there is considerable correspondence between maturity of moral values (the possession of rational and internal reasons for moral action) and maturity of action in moral-conflict situations. Clear relations between maturity of moral judgment and mature moral action are found in situations in which social norms are ambiguous or conflicting and in which developmentally advanced values clearly predispose toward one course of action rather than another. Such a correspondence is suggested only to a limited extent by Hartshorne and May’s findings of moderate correlations between age-linked measures of moral knowledge and experimental measures of honesty. This limited correspondence occurred because they defined moral knowledge largely in terms of verbal conformity of attitudes rather than maturity of moral reasoning and because resistance to cheating is not clearly a developmentally more mature choice or a choice based on moral reasons in the young age group studied. There is evidence, however, suggesting that resistance to cheating does become a more mature alternative at older ages or higher levels of development than those involved in the Hartshorne and May study. Only 11 per cent of college subjects who were at the level of moral principle in a verbal moral-values test cheated in an experimental situation, whereas half the subjects at a level of conventional moral values cheated (this test is discussed later in this article; the findings cited are reviewed in Kohlberg 1966). With younger subjects, the same relations between moral judgment and cheating are not found, since few of the younger subjects are at the level in which not cheating may be defined as relevant to principles of contract, trust, and equity. While college-age subjects making principled moral judgments were more likely to conform to an experimenter in the matter of moral expectation about cheating, such subjects are markedly more autonomous, or less conforming to an experimenter, where the experimenter’s expectations violate the subjects’ moral values. Whereas 75 per cent of the morally principled subjects refused to give increasing levels of shock to an experimental “victim” when ordered to do so by an experimenter, only 13 per cent of the remaining subjects refused to do so.

Major questions

The evidence suggests, then, that the basic social science problem of moral development is not that of accounting for individual differences in moral character as revealed in behavior. Moral behavior that involves conformity to social rule is, on the whole, to be explained as the result of the same situational forces, ego variables, and socialization factors that determine behaviors which have no direct moral relevance. A more distinctive focus of analysis centers instead upon the direct study of the development of moral values, judgments and emotions. The study of actual conduct becomes relevant to problems of moral development insofar as research is able to find links between the child’s conduct and the development of his moral values and emotions.

The major questions which may be asked about moral development, then, are as follows: What is the origin of distinctively moral concepts and emotions in the child? To what extent does the child’s development indicate typical or regular trends of change in these concepts and sentiments? What causes or stimulates these developmental changes in moral concepts and sentiments? To what extent are these developmental changes in moral concepts and attitudes reflected in developmental changes in the child’s moral action under conditions of conflict or temptation?

Culture and cultural agents

All of the questions may also be asked about the development of morality in cultures. The present article will not attempt to deal with the development of cultural moralities, a topic still most comprehensively treated in the work of Hobhouse (1906). It must be pointed out, however, that most recent psychological as well as sociological thought has assumed that the problem of the origin of moral values is a cultural problem. It has been assumed that morality is a system of rules and values defined by the culture and that the individual child acquires these readymade values by general cultural-transmission mechanisms such as reinforcement learning or identification. If this were the case, our understanding of the content of the individual’s moral beliefs and emotions should be based on seeing it as a cultural, rather than an individual, product. This culturological approach to moral development was first clearly outlined by Durkheim (1898-1911; 1925), who based it on assumptions about the cultural relativism of moral values which are still widely held but which do not seem to be supported by recent research findings. Durkheim developed his position out of a critique of the British utilitarians (e.g., Hume 1751; Smith 1759; and Mill 1861). The utilitarians assumed that moral values were the products of individual adults, possessed of language and intelligence, who judged the actions of other individual men. The utilitarians suggested that actions by the self or by others whose consequences to the self are harmful (painful) are naturally deemed bad and arouse anger or punitive tendencies, and actions whose consequences are beneficial (pleasant) are naturally deemed good and arouse affection or approving tendencies. Owing to natural tendencies of empathy, to generalization, and to the need for social agreement, acts are judged good (or bad) when their consequences to others are good (or bad), even if they do not help (or injure) the self. Logical tendencies lead these judgments of consequences to take the form of judging that act right which does the greatest good for the greatest number. [SeeUtilitarianismand the biographies ofHume; Mill; Smith, Adam.

In his critique of the utilitarians Durkheim pointed to the following four phenomena: (1) Morality is basically a matter of respect for fixed rules (and the authority behind those rules), not of rational calculation of benefit and harm in concrete cases. (2) Morality seems universally to be associated with punitive sentiments, sentiments incompatible with the notion that the right is a matter of human-welfare consequences. (3) From group to group there is wide variation as to the nature of the rules arousing moral respect, punitiveness, and the sense of duty. (4) While modern Western societies divorce morality from religion, the basic moral rules and attitudes in many groups are those concerning relations to gods, not men, and hence do not center on human-welfare consequences.

According to Durkheim, these facts in turn implied the following: The mere fact of the existence of an institutionalized rule endows it with moral sacredness, regardless of its human-welfare consequences. Accordingly, moral rules, attitudes, and consequences originate at the group, rather than the individual, level. The psychological origin of moral attitudes, then, is in the individual’s respect for the group, the attitudes shared by the group, and the authority figures who represent the groups. The values most sacred to the individual are those which are most widely shared by, and most closely bind together, the group.

While Durkheim’s views of the group mind have been widely questioned, the essential implications of his position have been widely accepted. Assumptions common to Durkheim and Freud underlie the research studies of moral internalization previously discussed. Unlike Durkheim, Freud (1923; 1930) derived moral sentiments and beliefs from respect for, and identification with, individual parents, rather than from respect for the group. Furthermore, Freud derived this respect and identification from instinctual attachments (and defenses against these attachments) and viewed the central rules of morality as deriving their strength and rigidity from the need to counter these instinctual forces. In spite of these differences, Freud agreed in viewing morality (superego) as fundamentally a matter of respect for concrete rules which are culturally variable or arbitrary, since these rules are a manifestation of social authority, and he agreed in viewing punitive or (self-punitive) sentiments toward deviation as the clearest and most characteristic expression of moral internalization or respect.

The research findings on individual moral judgments in a variety of cultures seem incompatible with either of the extreme views just contrasted (Kohlberg 1966). Moral judgments and decisions in all cultures are a mixture of judgments in terms of individual human-utility consequences and judgments in terms of concrete categorical social rules. The utilitarian derivation of respect for rules from utilitarian consequences is as psychologically unfeasible as Durkheim’s derivation of concern for individual welfare consequences from respect for social rules as such. A culturally universal core of moral values and moral development may be found, but it is not based on a culturally universal acceptance of moral principles of the utilitarian variety. Individual moral beliefs and sentiments involving universal principles not directly embodied in concrete social rules often develop and often function at a level of conscious opposition and transcendence of group authority, as the utilitarians implied, but this development itself presupposes the development of respect for group authority discussed by Durkheim. Such, at least, seem the implications of recent research oriented to a third, or “developmentalist,” concept of morality.

In general, the developmental approach to moral psychology (Baldwin 1897; Mead 1934; McDougall 1908; Hobhouse 1906; Piaget 1932; Kohlberg 1966) has attempted to mediate between the extreme positions represented by the utilitarians and by Durkheim. Moral judgment and emotion based on respect for custom, authority, and the group are seen as one phase or stage in the moral development of the individual rather than as the total definition of the essential characteristics of morality it was for Durkheim. Judgment of right and wrong in terms of the individual’s consideration of social-welfare consequences, universal principles, and justice is seen as a later phase of development. This phase depends upon and integrates many of the emotional features of the earlier customary phase and does not spring directly from the minds of unsocialized rational adults, as it did for the utilitarians. Both a morality of respect for social authority and an autonomous rational morality are to be understood as arising from the development of a self through the process of taking the roles or attitudes of other selves in interactions occurring in institutionalized patterns.

Stages of moral development

As elaborated in Piaget’s developmental theory (1932), the child first moves from an amoral stage to Durkheim’s stage of respect for sacred rules. This is not so much respect for the group as it is respect for the authority of individual elders such as the parents. Piaget believes that the cognitive limitations of the child of three to eight lead him to confuse moral rules with physical laws and to view rules as fixed external things, rather than as the instruments of human purposes and values. Piaget believes that the child sees rules as absolutes and confuses rules with things because of his “realism” (his inability to distinguish between subjective and objective aspects of his experience) and because of his “egocentrism” (his inability to distinguish his own perspective on events from that of others). In addition to seeing rules as external absolutes, the young child feels that his parents and other adults are all-knowing, perfect, and sacred. This attitude of unilateral respect toward adults, joined with the child’s realism, is believed to lead him to view rules as sacred and unchangeable.

Piaget believes that intellectual growth and experiences of role taking in the peer group naturally transform perceptions of rules from external authoritarian commands to internal principles. In essence, he views internal moral norms as logical principles of justice. Of these, he says:

In contrast to a given rule, which from the first has been imposed upon the child from outside... the rule of justice is a sort of immanent condition of social relationships or a law governing their equilibrium. (Piaget [1932] 1948, p. 196). The sense of justice ... is largely independent of [adult precept] and requires nothing more for its development than mutual respect and solidarity which holds among children themselves (p. 195).

By “the sense of justice,” Piaget means a concern for reciprocity and equality between individuals. However, norms of justice are not simply matters of abstract logic; rather they are sentiments of sympathy, gratitude, and vengeance which have taken on logical form.

Piaget believes that an autonomous morality of justice develops in children of about age eight to ten and eventually replaces an earlier, heteronomous morality based on unquestioning respect for adult authority. He expects the autonomous morality of justice to develop in all children, unless development is fixated by unusual coerciveness of parents or cultures or by deprivation of experiences of peer cooperation.

Certain aspects of Piaget’s theory have been supported by subsequent research findings, while others have not. Piaget’s stage theory suggests a number of cross-culturally universal age trends in the development of moral judgment. At least three such trends have been found to occur in a variety of Western, Oriental, and aboriginal (American Indian and Malaysian) cultures (evidence summarized in Kohlberg 1966). These include: (1) Intentionality in judgment. Young children tend to judge an act as bad mainly in terms of its actual physical consequences, whereas older children judge an act as bad in terms of the intent to do harm. (2) Relativism in judgment. The young child views an act as either totally right or totally wrong and thinks everyone views it in the same way. If the young child does recognize a conflict in views, he believes the adult’s view is always the right one. In contrast, the older child is aware of possible diversity in views of right and wrong. (3) Independence of sanctions. The young child says an act is bad because it will elicit punishment; the older child says an act is bad because it violates a rule, does harm to others, and so forth.

The young child’s absolutism, nonintentionalism, and orientation to punishment do not appear to depend upon extensive parental use of punishment. Even the permissively reared child appears to have a natural tendency to define good and bad in terms of absolutism and punishment, a tendency which his awareness of punishment by teachers, police, and other parents seems sufficient to stimulate. While specific punishment practices or cultural ideologies do not appear necessary for the formation of the young child’s moral ideology of punishment, they may lead to the persistence of this ideology into adolescence or adulthood. In other words, specific cultural factors appear to stimulate or retard age trends of development on the Piaget dimensions, but they do not appear to actually cause the age shifts or trends observed.

Piaget, then, appears to be correct in assuming certain characteristics of the young child’s moral judgment in any society, characteristics which arise from the child’s cognitively immature interpretation of acts labeled good and bad by adults, according to the derivation of their goodness or badness from their association with good and bad consequences of physical harm—punishment and reward. However, his interpretation of these aspects of the young child’s morality—as deriving from the child’s sense of the sacredness of the rules and of adult authority—has not been supported. Piaget (1932) attempts to demonstrate that the young child’s attitude toward rules is one of unilateral sacredness by observations of children’s behavior and beliefs about the rules of the game of marbles. Swiss children are quoted as saying that the rules of the game can never be changed, that the rules have existed from the beginning of time and have been invented and handed down by God, the head of the state, or the father. More systematic research suggests that attitudes of rigidity toward game rules seem to decline with age in American children of five to twelve but that attitudes expressing the rigidity or sacredness of moral rules or of laws increase in this period, rather than decline. The young child’s ignoring of subjective factors such as intention, then, is not based on respect for sacred rule but on a more or less pragmatic concern for consequences. An example of the fact that young children orient more or less pragmatically to punishment rather than to sacred rule is indicated by a study by Kohlberg, Krebs, and Brener (Kohlberg 1963ft). Young children were asked to judge a helpful, obedient act (attentively watching a baby brother while the mother is away) followed by punishment (the mother returns and spanks the baby-sitting child). Most four-year-olds, ignoring his act, say the obedient boy was bad because he got punished. By age seven, a majority say the boy was good, not bad, even though he was punished.

Piaget also appears to be incorrect in postulating a general trend from an authoritarian to a peergroup, or democratic, ethic. Postulated general age shifts from obedience to authority to peer loyalty, from justice based on conformity to justice based on equality, have not been generally found. Peergroup participation has not been found to be a factor facilitating development on the Piaget dimensions.

More broadly, however, Piaget is correct in assuming a culturally universal age development of a sense of justice, involving progressive concern for the needs and feelings of others and elaborated conceptions of reciprocity and equality. As this sense of justice develops, however, it reinforces respect for authority and for the rules of adult society; it also reinforces more informal peer norms, since adult institutions have underpinnings of reciprocity, equality of treatment, service to human needs, etc.

The last-mentioned conclusion is derived primarily from cross-cultural research by this writer and his colleagues on children’s responses to a number of hypothetical moral dilemmas, such as whether to steal an expensive drug to save one’s dying wife. In this research every sentence or response of a subject could be reliably classified into one of six stages that have also been divided into three major levels of development as follows:

Level I. Premoral:
Stage 1.Punishment and obedience orientation.
Stage 2.Naive instrumental hedonism.
Level II. Morality of conventional role conformity:
Stage 3.Good-boy morality of maintaining good relations, approval by others.
Stage 4.Authority maintaining morality.
Level III. Morality of self-accepted moral principles:
Stage 5.Morality of contract, of individual rights, and of democratically accepted law.
Stage 6.Morality of individual principles of conscience.

Each of these six general stages of moral orientation could be defined in terms of its specific stance on some 32 aspects of morality. For example, with regard to the aspect “motivation for rule obedience or moral action,” the six stages were defined as follows:

Stage 1.Obey rules to avoid punishment.
Stage 2.Conform to obtain rewards, have favors returned, and so on.
Stage 3.Conform to avoid disapproval, dislike by others.
Stage 4.Conform to avoid censure by legitimate authorities and resultant guilt.
Stage 5.Conform to maintain the respect of the impartial spectator judging in terms of community welfare.
Stage 6.Conform to avoid self-condemnation.

It is evident that this aspect of moral development represents successive degrees of internalization of moral sanctions. Other aspects of moral development involve successive cognitive reorganization of the meaning of culturally universal values. As an example, in every society human life is a basic value, even though cultures differ in their definition of the universality of this value or of the conditions under which it may be sacrificed for some other value. With regard to the value of life, the six stages are defined as follows:

Stage 1.The value of a human life is confused with the value of physical objects and is based on the social status of physical attributes of its possessor.
Stage 2.The value of a human life is seen as instrumental to the satisfaction of the needs of its possessor or of other persons.
Stage 3.The value of a human life is based on the empathy and affection of family members and others toward its possessor.
Stage 4.Life is conceived as sacred in terms of its place in a categorical moral or religious order of rights and duties.
Stage 5.Life is valued both in its relation to community welfare and as a universal human right.
Stage 6.Life is valued as sacred and as representing a universal human value of respect for the individual.

It is evident that these stages represent a progressive disentangling or differentiation of moral values and judgments from other types of values and judgments. With regard to the particular aspect—the value of life—the moral value held by the person at stage 6 has become progressively disentangled from status and property values (stage 1), from his instrumental uses to others (stage 2), from the actual affection of others for him (stage 3), etc. While philosophers have been unable to agree upon any ultimate principle of the good which would define “correct” moral judgments, most philosophers agree upon the characteristics which make a judgment a genuine moral judgment (Hare 1952; Kant 1785). Moral judgments are judgments about the good and the right of action. However, not all judgments of “good” or “right” are moral judgments; many are judgments of aesthetic, technological, or prudential goodness or rightness. Unlike judgments of prudence or aesthetics, moral judgments tend to be universal, inclusive, consistent, and based on objective, impersonal, or ideal grounds. “She’s really great; she’s beautiful and a good dancer” and “The right way to make a martini is five to one” are statements about the good and right which are not moral judgments, since they lack these characteristics. If we say, “Martinis should be made five to one,” we are making an aesthetic judgment; we are not prepared to say that we want everyone to make them that way, that they are good in terms of some impersonal ideal standard shared by others, and that we should all make five-to-one martinis whether we wish to or not. In a similar fashion, when a ten-year-old answers the “moral should” question “Should Joe tell on his older brother?”—in stage 1 terms of the probabilities of getting beaten up by his father and by his brother—he does not answer with a moral judgment that is universal (applies to all brothers in that situation and ought to be agreed upon by all people thinking about the situation) or one that has any impersonal or ideal grounds. In contrast, stage 6 statements not only use specifically moral words like “morally right” or “duty” but use them in a moral way: e.g., phrases such as “regardless of who it was” and “by the law of nature or of God” imply universality; “Morally, I would do it in spite of fear of punishment” implies impersonality and ideality of obligation, and so on. Thus, the responses of subjects at lower levels to moral-judgment matters fail to be moral responses the same way that the value judgments of subjects at higher levels about aesthetic or morally neutral matters fail to be moral responses.

In this sense we can define a moral judgment as “moral” without considering its content (the action judged) and without considering whether it agrees or not with our own judgments or standards.

It is also evident that moral development in terms of these stages is a progressive movement toward basing moral judgment on concepts of justice. To base a moral duty on a concept of justice is to base that duty on the right of an individual; to judge an act wrong is to judge it as violating such a right. The concept of a right implies a legitimate expectancy, a claim which I may expect others to agree I have. While rights may be grounded on sheer custom or law, there are two general grounds for a right—equality and reciprocity (including exchange, contract, and the reward of merit). At stages 5 and 6 all the demands of statute or of moral (natural) law are grounded on concepts of justice, i.e., on agreement, contract, and the impartiality of the law and its function in maintaining the rights of individuals.

It is apparent that the stages just defined are stages in the development of moral judgment. Rather similar stages, however, have been independently arrived at by Peck and Havighurst (1960), who include emotional and behavioral as well as judgmental traits in their stage definitions.

The progressions, or stages, just described imply something more than age trends. In the first place, they imply an invariant sequence in which each individual child must go step by step through each of the kinds of moral judgment outlined. It is, of course, possible for a child to move at varying speeds and to stop (become “fixated”) at any level of development, but if he continues to move upward, he must move in accord with these steps. The longitudinal study of American boys at ages 10, 13, 16, and 19 suggests that this is the case (Kohlberg 1966).

Second, a stage concept implies universality of sequence under varying cultural conditions. It implies that moral development is not merely a matter of learning the verbal values or rules of the child’s culture but reflects something more universal in development, which would occur in any culture. In general, the stages in moral judgment just described appear to be culturally universal. Middle-class urban, lower-class urban, and tribal or rural village boys aged 10 to 21 have been studied in Taiwan, Yucatan, Turkey, and the United States. In all groups, stage 1 appears first and becomes less prevalent with age. Stage 2 appears next and then stages 3 and 4, which increase with age. In all middle-class groups, and some lower-class groups, stages 5 and 6 appear at later ages (primarily ages 16 to 21). These last two stages are not found among tribal or village peasant groups. (Kohlberg 1966).

Factors in development

It seems obvious that moral stages must primarily be the products of the child’s interaction with others, rather than the direct unfolding of biological or neurological structures. However, the emphasis on social interaction does not mean that stages of moral judgment directly represent the teaching of values by parents or direct “introjection” of values by the child. Theories of moral stages view the influence of parental training and discipline as only a part of a world or social order perceived by the child. The child can internalize the moral values of his parents and culture and make them his own only as he comes to relate these values to a comprehended social order and to his own goals as a social self.

Culturally universal invariant sequences in the child’s social concepts and values imply that there are some universal structural dimensions or invariants in the social world analogous to those in the physical world. Universal physical concepts have been found because there is a universal physical structure which underlies the diversity of physical arrangements in which men live and the diversities of formal physical theories held in various cultures. In somewhat analogous fashion, the social stages imply universal structural dimensions of social experience; this is based on the fact that social and moral action involves the existence of a self in a world composed of other selves playing complementary roles organized into institutional systems. In order to play a social role in the family, school, or society, the child must implicitly take the role of others toward himself and toward others in the group. One side of such role taking is represented by acts of reciprocity or complementarity (Mead 1934), the other side by acts and attitudes of sameness, sharing, and imitation (Baldwin 1897). These tendencies, intimately associated with the development of language and symbolism, form the basis of all social institutions which represent various patternings of shared or complementary expectations. [SeeInteraction; Language,article on Languagedevelopment; Role,article on Psychological Aspects.]

Such institutional expectations have per se a normative or moral component involving rights and duties and require moral role taking. While the concrete definitions of required behavior in given roles are relatively fixed throughout age development, the perspectives in which these behaviors are related to a moral order undergo successive stagelike transformation. Required behavior may be based upon power and external compulsion (stage 1), upon a system of exchanges and need satisfactions (stage 2), upon the maintenance of legitimate expectations (stages 3 and 4), or upon ideals or general logical principles of social organization (stages 5 and 6). The order in this development is largely the result of general aspects of cognitive development. Concepts of legitimate expectations presuppose concepts of reciprocity and exchange, while general principles of social organization and justice presuppose concepts of legitimate expectations.

The large cognitive component of moral role taking is suggested by correlations between the development of moral judgment and cognitive advance on intelligence tests or on Piaget’s cognitivestage tasks. Intelligence may be taken as a necessary, but not sufficient, cause of moral advance. All morally advanced children are bright, but not all bright children are morally advanced. Cognitive advance is associated with emotional aspects of moral role taking (e.g., the movement of moral motives from punishment to disapproval to self-condemnation) as well as with more intellectual forms of moral role taking in terms of the values and the rights of others (e.g., the movement from conceiving of life as a physical value to conceiving it as based on a universal respect for the human individual).

In addition to cognitive advance, opportunities for participation and role taking in all the basic groups to which the child belongs appear to be important for moral development. Piaget’s theory (1932) has stressed the peer group as a source of moral role taking, while other theories (Mead 1934) stress participation in the larger secondary institutions or participation in the family itself (Baldwin 1897). Research results suggest that all these opportunities for role taking are important and that all operate in a similar direction by stimulating moral development rather than producing a particular value system. In three divergent cultures studied, middle-class children were found to be more advanced in moral judgment than matched lower-class children (Kohlberg 1967). This was not because the middle-class children heavily favored a certain type of thought which corresponded to the prevailing middle-class pattern. Instead, middle-class and working-class children seemed to move through the same sequences, but the middle-class children seemed to move faster and farther. Similar but even more striking differences were found between peer-group participators (popular children) and nonparticipators (unchosen children) in the American sample. Studies underway suggest that these peer-group differences partly arise from, and partly add on to, prior differences in opportunities for role taking in the child’s family (family participation, communication, emotional warmth, sharing in decisions, awarding responsibility to the child, pointing out consequences of action to others ).

Our discussion has stressed the role of intellectual advance and of social participation and roletaking opportunities in family, peer group, and secondary institutions as they facilitate the development of moral judgment. While the evidence is less complete, these same factors appear to correlate with clinical ratings of maturity of moral character (Peck & Havighurst 1960) and experimental or rating measures of honesty and of moral autonomy (Kohlberg 1967; Columbia University 1928—1930).

Parental identification and guilt. It is important to note that some of the findings used here to argue for the centrality of role-taking opportunities in moral development have also been interpreted as indicating the centrality of parent identifications in conscience formation. In psychoanalytic and neopsychoanalytic discussions, identification has meant the general tendency to take the role of the punishing and criticizing other; that is, in order to criticize or punish himself after transgression, the child must take the role of another toward himself. Otherwise he would continue to view himself and the situation as he did when he performed the act. For self-criticism to be guilt, the child must “take the role of the other” in a deep or internalized sense, regardless of whether the other knows about his transgression. Such deep, fixed role taking or identification has been variously hypothesized to result from needs to substitute for an absent or rejecting love object (Freud 1930; Sears et al. 1957), from the need to defend against fear of aggression (A. Freud 1936), or from “status envy” needs (Whiting 1960).

It is evident that identification is a special or particular form of role taking as previously defined. As opposed to more general theories of role taking, identification theories of moral formation have assumed: (a) that the child’s role taking of parents represents a unique, special, and necessary basis for conscience formation rather than one of a number of general role-taking relationships; (b) that the basic moral role-taking tendencies leading to conscience formation are formed in early childhood, when the child’s weakness can create overwhelmingly strong tendencies to love, fear, and respect and lead to introjecting adult figures and their prescriptions; (c) that basic role taking of parents leads to direct introjection, transfer, or mimicking of fixed parental standards rather than being a step toward the development of general role-taking tendencies which move out into wider social realms and so promote moral advance.

In general the research findings suggest the importance of children’s role taking of their parents in moral development, but they do not support the notion that conscience is a unique product of parent identifications (Kohlberg 1963a; 1963b; 1964; Hoffman 1966). Parental warmth, children’s positive attitudes toward parents, and children’s expressed desire to be like their parents correlate positively with acceptance of the conventional moral code as measured by tests of conventional expressions of guilt and of moral judgment. Little evidence, however, has been found to indicate that these variables are correlated with the fixed introjection of particular, individual parental moral values. Furthermore, little evidence has been found to suggest that a close bond to one or both parents is crucially necessary for conscience formation. The most relevant studies come from comparison of kibbutz-reared and family-reared children in Israel. While kibbutz children have regular contacts with parents in evenings and on holidays, parents are little involved in making or enforcing moral or socialization demands upon the child. This task is primarily the function of the nurse–caretaker, the teacher, and the peer group. Few clear differences have been found between these children and city children in moral judgment, in projective measures of guilt, or in naturalistic observations of moral control of behavior (studies reviewed in Kohlberg 1964). It would appear, then, that affectional relationships (or identification) with parents are important in moral development, more because positive and affectional relations to others are generally conducive to ego development and to role taking and acceptance of social standards than because they provide a unique and direct basis for conscience formation. [SeeAffection.]

Common psychological notions that parental punishment and resultant guilt play a critical role in moral development seem even more questionable in the light of research findings. It seems self-evident that self-induced pain after transgression (guilt) must originate largely from experiences of transgression-related pain caused by others (punishment). Some core experiences of punishment, or at least of blame, are presumably necessary for the development of guilt reactions, and even the most permissively raised children experience them. Punishment, however, does not directly produce guilt, since the very young punished child does not experience guilt. Furthermore, there does not appear to be a direct relationship between amount of punishment and amount of guilt. We are also not able to say that the more psychologically painful the punishment, the more likely it is to produce guilt. Physical punishment seems to show a low positive correlation with children’s use of punishment fantasies as consequences of transgression, but it does not relate positively to types of transgression reaction more representative of guilt. Even for punishment reactions, young children whose parents report they never use physical punishment may make heavy use of it in doll-play transgression stories.

Punishment by love withdrawal (ignoring, isolation, a mother’s statements that she doesn’t like her child when he is bad) has been thought to be especially critical in producing guilt, because loss of love is believed to be more psychologically painful or anxiety-arousing than physical punishment and because it would be expected to lead to implicit role taking or identification with the parent’s disapproval. However, love withdrawal has not been found to relate to self-critical guilt (Hoffman 1966).

Rather than showing striking or unique relationships to punishment experiences, projective measures of internal guilt show the same general age trends and social correlates as measures of maturity of moral judgment in the school years. This suggests that the development of conscious internal standards of judgment and of empathic and role-taking capacities is the major factor in the genesis of guilt (Kohlberg 1964; Hoffman 1966).

The findings just reviewed, together with findings presented initially in this article, are inconsistent with the notion of a fixed moral structure (conscience—guilt) developing out of experiences of parental punishment and reward and determining moral behavior. This conclusion is not inconsistent with the obvious importance of punishment and reward in the short-term situational control of “moral” (conforming) behavior, as suggested by the Hartshorne and May findings. Experimental studies that manipulate punishment parameters show striking effects upon short-term resistance to temptation in given situations (Aronfreed 1966). In contrast, naturalistic correlational studies of parameters of parental punishment and reward suggests few clear or persisting effects of these parameters upon later moral behavior (findings reviewed in Kohlberg 1963a). Thus, S–R reinforcement theories may be useful in explaining short-run learning of behavioral conformity, without being adequate for the understanding of what we have considered as characteristic of moral development.

Neurotic behavior

In addition to distinguishing between moral development and situational conformity with regard to punishment–guilt factors, it is important to distinguish between moral development and the formation of neurotic inhibitions, anxieties, and punitive feelings resulting from punishment—guilt factors. It is obvious that neurotics suffer from strong feelings of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and inhibition. To a considerable extent, psychopathologists have held that these feelings result from guilt experiences resulting in turn from real or fantasied childhood transgressions and associated punishments, and they have developed general theories of moral development from these clinical data.

The research findings on guilt and moral factors in neurosis are sparse, but they do suggest limitations to the notion that neurotics suffer from too much general guilt or moral restraint. There is little reason to believe that neurotics are more scrupulous about moral ideals or more morally restrained in their conduct than normal people. Neurotic children have not been found to be higher (or consistently lower) than normal children in projective measures of guilt, in moral judgment, or in resistance to dishonest behavior. (In contrast, pathologically delinquent children are markedly lower on guilt and moral judgment than are either neurotic or normal children.) While neurotic symptoms do not seem to be explainable as the result of too much general guilt or moral concern resulting from childhood experiences, it does seem plausible to view distinctively “neurotic” moral anxieties and inhibitions (anxieties about matters viewed as morally permissible by the general culture) as the result of childhood experiences and fantasies of parental punishment. Clinical observations as to the genesis of these idiosyncratic moral anxieties may be valid, then, even though they have not provided a useful model for the general understanding of moral development. Such understanding rests on further elaboration of the processes of ego development as these interact with social experiences of which the moral is a universal dimension.

Lawrence Kohlberg

[Directly related are the entriesDevelopmental Psychologyand Socialization.Other relevant material may be found in Conformity; Delinquency; Justice; Learning,article on Reinforcement; Personality,article on Personality Development; Psychoanalysis; Role; Sympathy AND Empathy; Utilitarianism; and in the biography of Durkheim.]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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Bowers, William J. 1964 Student Dishonesty and Its Control in College. Cooperative Research Project No. OE 1672. Unpublished manuscript, Columbia Univ., Bureau of Applied Social Research.

Burton, Roger V. 1963 Generality of Honesty Reconsidered. Psychological Review 70:481-499.

Columbia University, Teachers College 1928—1930 Studies in the Nature of Character. 3 vols. New York: Macmillan. → Volume 1: Studies in Deceit, by Hugh Hartshorne and Mark A. May. Volume 2: Studies in Service and Self-control, by Hugh Hartshorne, Mark A. May, and J. B. Mailer. Volume 3: Studies in Organization of Character, by Hugh Hartshorne, Mark A. May, and F. K. Shuttleworth.

Durkheim, Émile (1898–1911) 1953 Sociology and Philosophy. Glencoe, 111.: Free Press. → Written between 1898 and 1911. First published posthumously in French.

Durkheim, Émile (1925) 1961 Moral Education: A Study in the Theory and Application of the Sociology of Education. New York: Free Press. → First published posthumously in French.

Freud, Anna (1936) 1957 The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense. New York: International Universities Press. → First published as Das Ich und die Abwehrmechanismen.

Freud, Sigmund (1923) 1961 The Ego and the Id. Volume 19, pages 12-63 in Sigmund Freud, The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. London: Hogarth; New York: Macmillan. → First published as Das Ich und das Es.

Freud, Sigmund (1925) 1961 The Resistances to Psycho-analysis. Volume 19, pages 213–222 in Sigmund Freud, The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. London: Hogarth; New York: Macmillan. → First published in German.

Freud, Sigmund (1930) 1958 Civilization and Its Discontents. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday. → First published as Das Unbehagen in der Kultur.

Hare, Richard M. 1952 The Language of Morals. Oxford: Clarendon.

Hobhouse, Leonard T. (1906) 1951 Morals in Evolution: A Study in Comparative Ethics. With a new introduction by Morris Ginsberg. 7th ed. 2 vols. London: Chapman.

Hoffman, M. 1966 Childrearing Antecedents of Moral Internalization. Unpublished manuscript.

Hume, David (1751) 1957 An Inquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals. New York: Liberal Arts Press.

Kant, Immanuel (1785) 1949 Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals. New York: Liberal Arts Press. → First published as Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Bitten.

Kohlberg, Lawrence 1963a Moral Development and Identification. Pages 277—332 in National Society for the Study of Education, Child Psychology. 62d Year-book. Edited by Harold Stevenson. Univ. of Chicago Press.

Kohlberg, Lawrence 1963 of The Development of Children’s Orientations Toward a Moral Order. Part 1: Sequence in the Development of Moral Thought. Vita humana 6:11-33.

Kohlberg, Lawrence 1964 Development of Moral Character and Moral Ideology. Volume 1, pages 383-431 in Martin Hoffman and Lois Hoffman (editors), Review of Child Development Research. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Kohlberg, Lawrence 1966 Stage and Sequence: The Developmental Approach to Moralization. Unpublished manuscript.

Kohlberg, Lawrence 1967 The Development of Children’s Orientations Toward a Moral Order. Part 2: Social Experience, Social Conduct, and the Development of Moral Thought. Unpublished manuscript.

Mcdougall, William (1908) 1950 An Introduction to Social Psychology. 30th ed. London: Methuen. → A paperback edition was published in 1960 by Barnes and Noble.

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Sears, Robert R.; Maccoby, Eleanor E.; and Levin, Harry 1957 Patterns of Child Rearing. Evanston, 111.: Row, Peterson.

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Moral Development

Moral development

Definition

Moral development is the process throught which children develop proper attitudes and behaviors toward other people in society, based on social and cultural norms, rules, and laws.

Description

Moral development is a concern for every parent. Teaching a child to distinguish right from wrong and to behave accordingly is a goal of parenting.

Moral development is a complex issue thatsince the beginning of human civilizationhas been a topic of discussion among some of the world's most distinguished psychologists, theologians, and culture theorists. It was not studied scientifically until the late 1950s.

Piaget's theory of moral reasoning

Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist, explored how children developed moral reasoning. He rejected the idea that children learn and internalize the rules and morals of society by being given the rules and forced to adhere to them. Through his research on how children formed their judgments about moral behavior, he recognized that children learn morality best by having to deal with others in groups. He reasoned that there was a process by which children conform to society's norms of what is right and wrong, and that the process was active rather than passive.

Piaget found two main differences in how children thought about moral behavior. Very young children's thinking is based on how actions affected them or what the results of an action were. For example, young children will say that when trying to reach a forbidden cookie jar, breaking 10 cups is worse than breaking one. They also recognize the sanctity of rules. For example, they understand that they cannot make up new rules to a game; they have to play by what the rule book says or what is commonly known to be the rules. Piaget called this "moral realism with objective responsibility." It explains why young children are concerned with outcomes rather than intentions.

Older children look at motives behind actions rather than consequences of actions. They are also able to examine rules, determining whether they are fair or not, and apply these rules and their modifications to situations requiring negotiation, assuring that everyone affected by the rules is treated fairly. Piaget felt that the best moral learning came from these cooperative decision-making and problem-solving events. He also believed that children developed moral reasoning quickly and at an early age.

Kohlberg's theory of moral development

Lawrence Kohlberg, an American psychologist, extended Piaget's work in cognitive reasoning into adolescence and adulthood. He felt that moral development was a slow process and evolved over time. Still, his six stages of moral development, drafted in 1958, mirrors Piaget's early model. Kohlberg believed that individuals made progress by mastering each stage, one at a time. A person could not skip stages. He also felt that the only way to encourage growth through these stages was by discussion of moral dilemmas and by participation in consensus democracy within small groups. Consensus democracy was rule by agreement of the group, not majority rule. This would stimulate and broaden the thinking of children and adults, allowing them to progress from one stage to another.

preconventional level The child at the first and most basic level, the preconventional level, is concerned with avoiding punishment and getting needs met. This level has two stages and applies to children up to 10 years of age.

Stage one is the Punishment-Obedience stage. Children obey rules because they are told to do so by an authority figure (parent or teacher), and they fear punishment if they do not follow rules. Children at this stage are not able to see someone else's side.

Stage two is the Individual, Instrumentation, and Exchange stage. Here, the behavior is governed by moral reciprocity. The child will follow rules if there is a known benefit to him or her. Children at this stage also mete out justice in an eye-for-an-eye manner or according to Golden Rule logic. In other words, if one child hits another, the injured child will hit back. This is considered equitable justice. Children in this stage are very concerned with what is fair.

Children will also make deals with each other and even adults. They will agree to behave in a certain way for a payoff. "I'll do this, if you will do that." Sometimes, the payoff is in the knowledge that behaving correctly is in the child's own best interest. They receive approval from authority figures or admiration from peers, avoid blame, or behave in accordance with their concept of self. They are just beginning to understand that others have their own needs and drives.

conventional level This level broadens the scope of human wants and needs. Children in this level are concerned about being accepted by others and living up to their expectations. This stage begins around age 10 but lasts well into adulthood, and is the stage most adults remain at throughout their lives.

Stage three, Interpersonal Conformity, is often called the "good boy/good girl" stage. Here, children do the right thing because it is good for the family , peer group, team, school, or church. They understand the concepts of trust, loyalty, and gratitude. They abide by the Golden Rule as it applies to people around them every day. Morality is acting in accordance to what the social group says is right and moral.

Stage four is the Law and Order, or Social System and Conscience stage. Children and adults at this stage abide by the rules of the society in which they live. These laws and rules become the backbone for all right and wrong actions. Children and adults feel compelled to do their duty and show respect for authority. This is still moral behavior based on authority, but reflects a shift from the social group to society at large.

post-conventional level Some teenagers and adults move beyond conventional morality and enter morality based on reason, examining the relative values and opinions of the groups with which they interact. Few adults reach this stage.

Correct behavior is governed by the sixth stage, the Social Contract and Individual Rights stage. Individuals in this stage understand that codes of conduct are relative to their social group. This varies from culture to culture and subgroup to subgroup. With that in mind, the individual enters into a contract with fellow human beings to treat them fairly and kindly and to respect authority when it is equally moral and deserved. They also agree to obey laws and social rules of conduct that promote respect for individuals and value the few universal moral values that they recognize. Moral behavior and moral decisions are based on the greatest good for the greatest number.

Stage six is the Principled Conscience or the Universal/Ethical Principles stage. Here, individuals examine the validity of society's laws and govern themselves by what they consider to be universal moral principles, usually involving equal rights and respect. They obey laws and social rules that fall in line with these universal principles, but not others they deem as aberrant. Adults here are motivated by individual conscience that transcends cultural, religious, or social convention rules. Kohlberg recognized this last stage but found so few people who lived by this concept of moral behavior that he could not study it in detail.

Carol Gilligan and the morality of care

Kohlberg's and Piaget's theories have come under fire. Kohlberg's six stages of moral development, for example, have been criticized for elevating Western, urban, intellectual (upper class) understandings of morality, while discrediting rural, tribal, working class, or Eastern moral understandings. Feminists have pointed out potential sexist elements in moral development theories devised by male researchers using male subjects only (such as Kohlberg's early work). Because women's experiences in the world differ from men's in every culture, it would stand to reason that women's moral development might differ from men's, perhaps in significant ways.

Carol Gilligan deemed Kohlberg's research biased because he only used male subjects to reach his findings. Because of this, his model is based on a concept of morality based on equity and justice, which places most men in stage five or six. Gilligan found that women, who value social interaction more than men, base their moral decisions on a culture of caring for other human beings. This would place them at stage three, making women appear to be inferior morally to men. Men determine immorality based on treating others unfairly, and women base it on turning away someone in need.

Gilligan's work, however, doesn't solve the gender question, because newer research has found that both males and females often base their moral judgments and behaviors on both justice and care. Nevertheless, the morality of care theory opened up explorations of moral reasoning in many groups and cultures.

Bronfenbrenner

Urie Bronfenbrenner studied children and schools in different cultures since many ethnic, religious, and social groups often have their own rules for moral behavior. His research found five moral orientations, regardless of culture, social group, or developmental stage. Movement from the first stage to any of the others was dependent on participation in the family and other social institutions within each culture. Movement to the last stage involved exposure to a different moral system that might be in conflict with one's own. This moral pluralism forces individuals to examine their own moral reasoning and beliefs. This often occurs when people work in other countries or cultures and come face to face with different sets of moral conventions.

Bronfenbrenner also noted that individuals could slide back into a previous moral orientation when they experienced the breakdown of their familiar social order as in war, regime changes, genocide, famine, or large scale natural disasters that destroy social infrastructures. People narrow their attention to their own pressing needs and ignore the welfare of the larger society.

Self-oriented morality coincided with Kohlberg's pre-conventional morality. Behavior is based on self-interest and motivated by who can help children get what they want or who is hindering that process. This stage was found in all children and some adults in all cultures.

Authority-oriented morality again is similar to Kohlberg's Law and Order stage. This applies not only to parents' rules but to teachers, religious leaders, and government officials. This moral orientation was culturally defined. It was very evident in Middle Eastern cultures where religious authority is the law.

Peer-authority morality is moral conformity based on the conventions and rules of a social group. This is evident among teenagers in Western cultures and even among some adults.

Collective-oriented morality is an extension of the peer-authority stage. Here a larger group's rule supercedes individual rights and interests. Duty is the law. This moral orientation was found in Asian cultures.

Objectively-oriented morality is akin to Kohlberg's universal principles stage. Here, however, these rules transcend individual moral perspectives and become entities in themselves. Like Kohlberg's last stage, this moral orientation was found in relatively few people in any culture.

Other theories

There are several other approaches to the study of moral development, which are categorized in a variety of ways. Briefly, the social learning theory approach claims that humans develop morality by learning the rules of acceptable behavior from their external environment, an essentially behaviorist approach. Psychoanalytic theory proposes instead that morality develops through humans' conflict between their instinctual drives and the demands of society. Cognitive development theories view morality as an outgrowth of cognition, or reasoning, whereas personality theories are holistic in their approach, taking into account all the factors that contribute to human development.

The differences between these approaches rest on two questions: How moral are infants at birth? and How is moral maturity defined? The contrasting philosophies at the heart of the answers to these questions determine the essential perspective of each moral development theory. Those who believe infants are born with no moral sense tend toward social learning or behaviorist theories, because all morality must therefore be learned from the external environment. Others who believe humans are innately aggressive and completely self-oriented are more likely to accept psychoanalytic theories where morality is the learned management of socially destructive internal drives. Those who believe it is the reasoning abilities that separate humans from the rest of creation will find cognitive development theories the most attractive. And those who view humans as holistic beings born with a full range of potentialities will most likely be drawn to personality theories.

What constitutes mature morality is a subject of great controversy. Each society develops its own set of norms and standards for acceptable behavior, leading many to say that morality is entirely culturally conditioned. There is debate over whether or not this means that there are no universal truths, and no cross-cultural standards for human behavior. This debate fuels the critiques of many moral development theories.

Definitions of what is or is not moral are in a state of upheaval within individual societies. Controversies rage over the morality of warfare (especially nuclear), ecological conservation, genetic research and manipulation, alternative fertility and childbearing methods, abortion, sexuality, pornography, drug use, euthanasia, racism, sexism, and human rights issues, among others. Determining the limits of moral behavior becomes increasingly difficult as human capabilities, choices, and responsibilities proliferate with advances in technology and scientific knowledge. For example, prenatal testing techniques that determine birth defects in the womb force parents to make new moral choices about whether to give birth to a child.

The rise in crime, drug and alcohol abuse, gang violence, teen parenthood, and suicide in Western society has also caused a rise in concern over morality and moral development. Parents and teachers want to know how to raise moral children, and they turn to moral development theorists to find answers. Freudian personality theories became more widely known to the Western public in the 1960s and were understood to imply that repression of a child's natural drives would lead to neuroses. Many parents and teachers were therefore afraid to discipline their children, and permissiveness became the rule. Cognitive development theories did little to change things, as they focus on reasoning and disregard behavior. Behaviorist theories, with their complete denial of free will in moral decision-making, are unattractive to many and require precise, dedicated, behavior modification techniques.

Schools are returning to character education programs, popular in the 1920s and 1930s, where certain virtues such as honesty, fairness, and loyalty, are taught to students along with the regular academic subjects. Unfortunately, there is little or no agreement as to which virtues are important and what exactly each virtue entails.

Another approach to moral education that became popular in the 1960s and 1970s is known as values clarification or values modification. The purpose of these programs is to guide students to establish or discern their own system of values on which to base their moral decisions. Students are also taught that others may have different values systems, and that they must be tolerant of those differences. The advantages of this approach are that it promotes self-investigation and awareness and the development of internal moral motivations, which are more reliable than external motivations, and prevents fanaticism, authoritarianism, and moral coercion. The disadvantage is that it encourages moral relativism, the belief that "anything goes." Values clarification is generally seen as a valuable component of moral education, but incomplete on its own.

Lawrence Kohlberg devised a moral education program in the 1960s based on his cognitive development theory. Called the Just Community program, it utilizes age-appropriate or stage-appropriate discussions of moral dilemmas, democratic consensus rule-making, and the creation of a community context where students and teachers could act on their moral decisions. Just Community programs have been established in schools, prisons, and other institutions with a fair amount of success. Exposure to moral questions and the opportunity to practice moral behavior in a supportive community appear to foster deeper moral reasoning and more constructive behavior.

Overall, democratic family and school systems are much more likely to promote the development of internal self-controls and moral growth than are authoritarian or permissive systems. Permissive systems fail to instill any controls, while authoritarian systems instill only fear of punishment, which is not an effective deterrent unless there is a real chance of being caught or punishment becomes a reward because it brings attention to the offender. True moral behavior involves a number of internal processes that are best developed through warm, caring parenting with clear and consistent expectations, emphasis on the reinforcement of positive behaviors rather than the punishment of negative ones, modeling of moral behavior by adults, and creation of opportunities for the child to practice moral reasoning and actions.

According to personal (social) goal theory, moral behavior is motivated by the desire to satisfy a variety of personal and social goals, some of which are self-oriented (selfish), and some of which are other-oriented (altruistic). The four major internal motivations for moral behavior as presented by personal (social) goal theorists are: 1) empathy; 2) the belief that people are valuable in and of themselves and therefore should be helped; 3) the desire to fulfill moral rules; and 4) self-interest.

In social domain theory, moral reasoning is said to develop within particular social domains: 1) moral (e.g., welfare, justice, rights); 2) social-conventional (social rules for the orderly function of society); and 3) personal (pure self-interest, exempt from social or moral rules).

Most people have more than one moral voice and shift among them depending on the situation. In one context, a person may respond out of empathy and place care for an individual over concern for social rules. In a different context, that same person might instead insist on following social rules for the good of society, even though someone may suffer because of it. People also show a lack of consistent morality by sometimes choosing to act in a way that they know is not moral, while continuing to consider themselves moral people. This discrepancy between moral judgment (perceiving an act as morally right or wrong) and moral choice (deciding whether to act in the morally right way) can be explained in a number of ways, any one of which may be true in a given situation:

  • weakness of will (the person is overwhelmed by desire)
  • weakness of conscience (guilt feelings are not strong enough to overcome temptation)
  • limited/flexible morality (some latitude allowed in moral behavior while still maintaining a "moral" identity)

The Moral Balance model proposes that most humans operate out of a limited or flexible morality. Rather than expecting moral perfection from ourselves or others, people set certain limits beyond which they cannot go. Within those limits, however, there is some flexibility in moral decision-making. Actions such as taking coins left in the change-box of a public telephone may be deemed acceptable (though not perfectly moral), while stealing money from an open, unattended cash register is not. Many factors are involved in the determination of moral acceptability from situation to situation, and the limits on moral behavior are often slippery. If given proper encouragement and the opportunity to practice a coherent inner sense of morality, however, most people will develop a balanced morality to guide their day-to-day interactions with their world.

Common problems

Religious development often goes hand in hand with moral development. Children's concepts of divinity, right and wrong, and who is ultimately responsible for the world's woes are shaped by the family and by the religious social group to which each child belongs. Their concepts also mirror cognitive and moral developmental stages.

In general, in the earliest stage (up to age two years), the child knows that religious objects and books are to be respected. The concept of a divine being is vague, but the child enjoys the regularity of the religious rituals such as prayer.

In the next stage (from two to 10 years), children begin to orient religion concepts to themselves as in the catechism litany, "Who made you? God made me." The concept of a divine being is usually described in anthropomorphic ways for children around six years old. In other words, children perceive God to look like a human being only bigger or living in the sky. At this stage, God is physically powerful and often is portrayed as a superhero. God may also be the wish-granter and can fix anything. Children embrace religious holidays and rituals during this stage.

In the Intermediate Stage during pre-adolescence, children are considered to be in the pre-religious stage. The anthropomorphized divinity is pictured as being very old and wise. God is also thought of as doing supernatural things: having a halo, floating over the world, or performing miracles. Children in this stage understand the panoply of religious or divine beings within the religious belief system. For example, Christian children will distinguish between God and Jesus and the disciples or saints.

The last stage in adolescence focuses on personalizing religious rituals and drawing closer to a divine being. Teenagers begin to think of God in abstract terms and look at the mystical side of the religious experience. They may also rebel against organized religion as they begin to question the world and the rules around them.

Some adults who are considered highly religious consider God to be an anthropomorphized divine being or may reject the supernatural or mystical religious experience. This does not mean that these adults have somehow been arrested in their religious development. This just means that the variation among these stages is great and is determined by the particular religious community in which the individual is involved.

Parental concerns

When to call the doctor

Every child misbehaves and will sometimes act selfishly and hurtfully. It is when these acts increase, impulses cannot be controlled, or authority defiance becomes troublesome, that parents may need to seek professional help. Lack of impulse control and authority defiance can be symptoms of medical conditions and psychological disorders. Self-centered behavior, coupled with lack of acceptance of wrongdoing that continues into older childhood and adolescence, may be a problem that requires family or individual counseling.

Risky behaviors such as speeding, drinking, smoking , doing drugs, or engaging in sexual behavior may be related to peer pressure and wanting to conform to the group or may be a way to defy authority. These behaviors, though deemed morally wrong by most societies, may also be symptoms of deeper psychological troubles.

Of extreme concern is the rare child who acts with no remorse, and appears to have to conscience. This is usually signaled by early violent outbursts, destructive behavior, or by acts of cruelty to pets or other children. After each incident, the child has a flat affect (no emotion) or fails to admit that there was anything wrong with the his or her actions. These children need intervention immediately. Behaviors such as these may be indicators of sociopathic disorders.

KEY TERMS

Altruistic Thinking of others.

Anthropomorphic Taking on human characteristics or looking like humans.

Cognition The act or process of knowing or perceiving.

Flat affect Showing no emotion.

Moral choice Deciding whether to act in the morally right way.

Moral judgment Perceiving an act as morally right or wrong.

Resources

BOOKS

Child Psychology and Childhood Education: A Cognitive-Developmental View. New York: Longman, 1987.

Coles, Robert. The Moral Intelligence of Children: How to Raise a Moral Child. New York: Random House, 1997.

Crittenden, Paul. Learning to be Moral: Philosophical Thoughts About Moral Development. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1990.

Essays on Moral Development, II: The Psychology of Moral Development. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984.

Gilligan, Carol. In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982.

Huxley, Ronald. Love and Limits: Achieving a Balance in Parenting. San Diego: Singular Publishing Group, Inc., 1998.

Kohlberg, Lawrence. Essays on Moral Development, I: The Philosophy of Moral Development: Moral Stages and the Idea of Justice. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1981.

Kurtines, William M., and Jacob L. Gewirtz, eds. Moral Development: An Introduction. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1995.

Piaget, J. The Moral Judgment of the Child. New York: The Free Press, 1965.

Power, F. C., et al. Lawrence Kohlberg's Approach to Moral Education: A Study of Three Democratic High Schools. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989.

Schulman, Michael, and Eva Mekler. Bringing Up a Moral Child: A New Approach for Teaching Your Child to Be Kind, Just, and Responsible. rev. ed. New York: Main Street Books/Doubleday, 1994.

PERIODICALS

Bersoff, David M. and Joan G. Miller. "Culture, Context, and the Development of Moral Accountability Judgments." Developmental Psychology 29, no. 4 (July 1993): 66477.

ORGANIZATIONS

Association for Moral Education Dr. James M. Dubois Center for Health Care Ethics. Saint Louis University, Salus Center 3545 Lafayette Ave. St. Louis, MO 63104.

Developmental Studies Center 2000 Embarcadero, Suite 305 Oakland, CA 94606-5300. (510) 533-0213 or (800) 666-7270.

Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character. Boston University School of Education. 605 Commonwealth Ave., Room 356 Boston, MA 02215. (617) 353-3262. Fax: (617) 353-3924.

Educators for Social Responsibility (ESR). 23 Garden St. Cambridge, MA 02138. (800) 370-2515.

The Heartwood Institute. 425 N. Craig St., Suite 302 Pittsburgh, PA 15213. (800) 432-7810.

Janie Franz Dianne K. Daeg de Mott

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Franz, Janie; de Mott, Dianne. "Moral Development." Gale Encyclopedia of Children's Health: Infancy through Adolescence. 2006. Encyclopedia.com. 1 Oct. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Franz, Janie; de Mott, Dianne. "Moral Development." Gale Encyclopedia of Children's Health: Infancy through Adolescence. 2006. Retrieved October 01, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3447200374.html

Moral Development

Moral development

The formation of a system of underlying assumptions about standards and principles that govern moral decisions.

Moral development involves the formation of a system of values on which to base decisions concerning "right" and "wrong, " or "good" and "bad."fi Values are underlying assumptions about standards that govern moral decisions.

Although morality has been a topic of discussion since the beginning of human civilization, the scientific study of moral development did not begin in earnest until the late 1950s. Lawrence Kohlberg (1927-1987), an American psychologist building upon Jean Piaget's work in cognitive reasoning, posited six stages of moral development in his 1958 doctoral thesis. Since that time, morality and moral development have become acceptable subjects of scientific research. Prior to Kohlberg's work, the prevailing positivist view claimed that science should be" value-free"that morality had no place in scientific studies. By choosing to study moral development scientifically, Kohlberg broke through the positivist boundary and established morality as a legitimate subject of scientific research.

There are several approaches to the study of moral development, which are categorized in a variety of ways. Briefly, the social learning theory approach claims that humans develop morality by learning the rules of acceptable behavior from their external environment (an essentially behaviorist approach). Psychoanalytic theory proposes instead that morality develops through humans' conflict between their instinctual drives and the demands of society. Cognitive development theories view morality as an outgrowth of cognition , or reasoning, whereas personality theories are holistic in their approach, taking into account all the factors that contribute to human development.

The differences between these approaches rest on two questions: 1) where do humans begin on their moral journey; and 2) where do we end up? In other words, how moral are infants at birth ? And how is "moral maturity" defined? What is the ideal morality to which we aspire? The contrasting philosophies at the heart of the answers to these questions determine the essential perspective of each moral development theory. Those who believe infants are born with no moral sense tend towards social learning or behaviorist theories (as all morality must therefore be learned from the external environment). Others who believe humans are innately aggressive and completely self-oriented are more likely to accept psychoanalytic theories (where morality is the learned management of socially destructive internal drives). Those who believe it is our reasoning abilities that separate us from the rest of creation will find cognitive development theories the most attractive, while those who view humans as holistic beings who are born with a full range of potentialities will most likely be drawn to personality theories.

What constitutes "mature morality" is a subject of great controversy. Each society develops its own set of norms and standards for acceptable behavior, leading many to say that morality is entirely culturally conditioned. Does this mean there are no universal truths, no cross-cultural standards for human behavior? The debate over this question fuels the critiques of many moral development theories. Kohlberg's six stages of moral development, for example, have been criticized for elevating Western, urban, intellectual (upper class) understandings of morality, while discrediting rural, tribal, working class, or Eastern moral understandings. (See Kohlberg's theory of moral reasoning.) Feminists have pointed out potential sexist elements in moral development theories devised by male researchers using male subjects only (such as Kohlberg's early work). Because women's experience in the world is different from men's (in every culture), it would stand to reason that women's moral development might differ from men's, perhaps in significant ways.

Definitions of what is or is not moral are currently in a state of upheaval within individual societies as well as, at least, in the Western world. Controversies rage over the morality of warfare (especially nuclear), ecological conservation, genetic research and manipulation, alternative fertility and childbearing methods, abortion , sexuality , pornography , drug use, euthanasia, racism , sexism, and human rights issues, among others. Determining the limits of moral behavior becomes increasingly difficult as human capabilities, choices, and responsibilities proliferate with advances in technology and scientific knowledge. For example, prenatal testing techniques that determine birth defects in utero force parents to make new moral choices about whether to birth a child. Other examples of recently created moral questions abound in modern-day society.

Therefore, the study of moral development is lively today. The rise in crime, drug and alcohol abuse, gang violence, teen parenthood, and suicide in recent years in Western society has also caused a rise in concern over morality and moral development. Parents and teachers want to know how to raise moral children, and they turn to moral development theorists to find the answers. Freudian personality theories became more widely known to the Western public in the 1960s and were understood to imply that repression of a child's natural drives would lead to neuroses. Many parents and teachers were therefore afraid to discipline their children, and permissiveness became the rule. Cognitive development theories did little to change things, as they focus on reasoning and disregard behavior. (After a great deal of criticism in this regard, Kohlberg and other cognitive development theorists did begin to include moral actions in their discussions and education programs, but their emphasis is still on reasoning alone.) Behaviorist theories, with their complete denial of free will in moral decision-making, are unattractive to many and require such precise, dedicated, behavior modification techniques to succeed that few people are able to apply them in real-life situations.

The continuing breakdown of society, however, is beginning to persuade people that permissiveness is not the answer and another approach must be found. Schools are returning to" character education" programs, popular in the 1920s and 1930s, where certain "virtues" such as honesty, fairness, and loyalty, are taught to students along with the regular academic subjects. Unfortunately, there is little or no agreement as to which "virtues" are important and what exactly each "virtue" means. For example, when a student expresses dislike of another student, is she or he practicing the virtue of "fairness" or, rather, being insensitive to another's feelings? If a student refuses to salute the flag, is he or she betraying the virtue of "loyalty" or, rather, being loyal to some higher moral precept? These complex questions plague "character education" programs today, and their effectiveness remains in dispute.

Another approach to moral education that became popular in the 1960s and 1970s is known as "values clarification"

STAGES OF MORAL DEVELOPMENT

Childhood is often divided into five approximate stages of moral development:

  • Stage 1 = infancythe child's only sense of right and wrong is what feels good or bad;
  • Stage 2 = toddler yearsthe child learns "right" and "wrong" from what she or he is told by others;
  • Stage 3 = preschool yearsthe child begins to internalize family values as his or her own, and begins to perceive the consequences of his or her behavior;
  • Stage 4 = ages 7-10 yearsthe child begins to question the infallibility of parents, teachers, and other adults, and develops a strong sense of "should" and "should not"
  • Stage 5 = preteen and teenage yearspeers, rather than adults, become of ultimate importance to the child, who begins to try on different values systems to see which fits best; teens also become more aware of and concerned with the larger society, and begin to reason more abstractly about "right" and "wrong."

or "values modification." The purpose of these programs is to guide students to establish (or discern) their own system of values on which to base their moral decisions. Students are also taught that others may have different values systems, and that they must be tolerant of those differences. The advantages of this approach are that it promotes self-investigation and awareness and the development of internal moral motivations (which are more reliable than external motivations), and prevents fanaticism, authoritarianism, and moral coercion. The disadvantage is that it encourages moral relativism, the belief that "anything goes." Pushed to its extreme, it creates social chaos because no one can be held to any universal (or societal) moral standard. "Values clarification" is generally seen today to be a valuable component of moral education, but incomplete on its own.

Lawrence Kohlberg devised a moral education program in the 1960s based on his cognitive development theory. Called the Just Community program, it utilizes age-appropriate (or stage-appropriate) discussions of moral dilemmas, democratic rule-making, and the creation of a community context where students and teachers can act on their moral decisions. Just Community programs have been established in schools, prisons, and other institutions with a fair amount of success. Exposure to moral questions and the opportunity to practice moral behavior in a supportive community appear to foster deeper moral reasoning and more constructive behavior.

Overall, democratic family and school systems are much more likely to promote the development of internal self-controls and moral growth than are authoritarian or permissive systems. Permissive systems fail to instill any controls, while authoritarian systems instill only fear of punishment , which is not an effective deterrent unless there is a real chance of being caught (punishment can even become a reward for immoral behavior when it is the only attention a person ever gets). True moral behavior involves a number of internal processes that are best developed through warm, caring parenting with clear and consistent expectations, emphasis on the reinforcement of positive behaviors (rather than the punishment of negative ones), modeling of moral behavior by adults, and creation of opportunities for the child to practice moral reasoning and actions.

As previously stated, there is disagreement as to the exact motivations involved in moral behavior. Whatever the motivations, however, the internal processes remain the same.

The Four Component model describes them as follows:

  1. moral sensitivity = empathy (identifying with another's experience) and cognition of the effect of various possible actions on others;
  2. moral judgment = choosing which action is the most moral;
  3. moral motivation = deciding to behave in the moral way, as opposed to other options; and
  4. implementation = carrying out the chosen moral action.

According to personal (social) goal theory, moral (or prosocial) behavior is motivated by the desire to satisfy a variety of personal and social goals, some of which are self-oriented (selfish), and some of which are other-oriented (altruistic). The four major internal motivations for moral behavior as presented by personal (social) goal theorists are: 1) empathy; 2) the belief that people are valuable in and of themselves and therefore should be helped; 3) the desire to fulfill moral rules; and4) self-interest. In social domain theory, moral reasoning is said to develop within particular social "domains": 1) moral (e.g., welfare, justice, rights); 2) social-conventional (social rules for the orderly function of society); and 3) personal (pure self-interest, exempt from social or moral rules).

Most people in fact have more than one moral "voice" and shift among them depending on the situation. In one context, a person may respond out of empathy and place care for one person over concern for social rules. In a different context, that same person might instead insist on following social rules for the good of society, even though someone may suffer because of it. People also show a lack of consistent morality by sometimes choosing to act in a way that they know is not moral, while continuing to consider themselves "moral" people. This discrepancy between moral judgment (perceiving an act as morally right or wrong) and moral choice (deciding whether to act in the morally "right" way) can be explained in a number of ways, any one of which may be true in a given situation:

  • weakness of will (the person is overwhelmed by desire);
  • weakness of conscience (guilt feelings are not strong enough to overcome tempation); or
  • limited/flexible morality (some latitude allowed in moral behavior while still maintaining a" moral" identity).

The Moral Balance model proposes that most humans operate out of a limited or flexible morality. Rather than expecting moral perfection from ourselves or others, we set certain limits beyond which we cannot go. Within those limits, however, there is some flexibility in moral decision-making. Actions such as taking coins left in the change-box of a public telephone may be deemed acceptable (though not perfectly moral), while stealing money from an open, unattended cash register is not. Many factors are involved in the determination of moral acceptability from situation to situation, and the limits on moral behavior are often slippery. If given proper encouragement and the opportunity to practice a coherent inner sense of morality, however, most people will develop a balanced morality to guide their day-to-day interactions with their world.

Dianne K. Daeg de Mott

Further Reading

Crittenden, Paul. Learning to be Moral: Philosophical Thoughts About Moral Development. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1990.

Gilligan, Carol. In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982.

Kohlberg, Lawrence. Essays on Moral Development, I: The Philosophy of Moral Development: Moral Stages and the Idea of Justice. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1981.

. Essays on Moral Development, II: The Psychology of Moral Development. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984.

. Child Psychology and Childhood Education: A Cognitive-Developmental View. New York: Longman, 1987.

Kurtines, William M., and Jacob L. Gewirtz, eds. Moral Development: An Introduction. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1995.

Power, F. C., Ann Higgins, and Lawrence Kohlberg. Lawrence Kohlberg's Approach to Moral Education: A Study of Three Democratic High Schools. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989.

Schulman, Michael, and Eva Mekler. Bringing Up a Moral Child: A New Approach for Teaching Your Child to Be Kind, Just, and Responsible, rev. ed. New York: Main Street Books/Doubleday, 1994.

Further Information

Developmental Studies Center. 2000 Embarcadero, Suite 305, Oakland, CA 94606-5300, (510) 5330213, (800) 6667270.

Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character. Boston University School of Education, 605 Commonwealth Ave., Room 356, Boston, MA 02215, (617) 3533262, fax: (617) 3533924.

Educators for Social Responsibility (ESR). 23 Garden St., Cambridge, MA 02138, (800) 3702515.

The Heartwood Institute. 425 N. Craig St., Suite 302, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, (800) 4327810.

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Daeg de Mott, Dianne K.. "Moral Development." Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology. 2001. Encyclopedia.com. 1 Oct. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Daeg de Mott, Dianne K.. "Moral Development." Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology. 2001. Encyclopedia.com. (October 1, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3406000438.html

Daeg de Mott, Dianne K.. "Moral Development." Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology. 2001. Retrieved October 01, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3406000438.html

Moral Development

MORAL DEVELOPMENT


The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, author of the 1932 book The Moral Judgment of the Child, is among the first psychologists whose work remains directly relevant to contemporary theories of moral development and education. From his observations and interviews of children, Piaget concluded that children begin in a "heteronomous" stage of moral reasoning, characterized by a strict adherence to rules and duties and obedience to authority. This heteronomy results from two factors. The first factor is the young child's cognitive structure. According to Piaget, the thinking of young children is characterized by egocentrism. Young children are unable to simultaneously take into account their own view of things with the perspective of someone else. This egocentrism leads children to project their own thoughts and wishes onto others. It is also associated with the unidirectional view of rules and power associated with heteronomous moral thought and with various forms of "moral realism." Moral realism is associated with "objective responsibility," which is valuing the letter of the law above the purpose of the law. This is why young children are more concerned about the outcomes of actions rather than the intentions of the person doing the act. Moral realism is also associated with the young child's belief in "immanent justice." This is the expectation that punishments automatically follow acts of wrongdoing.

The second major contributor to young children's heteronomous moral thinking is their relative social relationship with adults. In the natural authority relationship between adults and children, power is handed down from above. The relative powerlessness of young children, coupled with childhood egocentrism, feeds into a heteronomous moral orientation. Nevertheless, through interactions with other children in which the group seeks to play together in a way all find fair, children find this strict heteronomous adherence to rules sometimes problematic. As children consider these situations, they develop towards an "autonomous" stage of moral reasoning, characterized by the ability to consider rules critically and to selectively apply these rules based on a goal of mutual respect and cooperation. The ability to act from a sense of reciprocity and mutual respect is associated with a shift in the child's cognitive structure from egocentrism to perspective taking. Coordinating one's own perspective with that of others means that what is right needs to be based on solutions that meet the requirements of fair reciprocity.

Piaget concluded from this work that schools should emphasize cooperative decision-making and problem solving, nurturing moral development by requiring students to work out common rules based on fairness. He believed individuals define morality individually through their struggles to arrive at fair solutions. Given this view, Piaget suggested that classroom teachers should provide students with opportunities for personal discovery through problem solving, rather than indoctrinating students with norms.

Lawrence Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development and Education

The American psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg modified and elaborated Piaget's work and determined that the process of attaining moral maturity took longer and was more gradual than Piaget had proposed. On the basis of his research, Kohlberg identified six stages of moral reasoning grouped into three major levels. At the first, preconventional level, a person's moral judgments are characterized by a concrete, individual perspective. Within this level, a Stage 1 heteronomous orientation focuses on avoiding breaking rules that are backed by punishment, obedience for its own sake, and avoiding the physical consequences of an action. At Stage 2 a moral orientation emerges that focuses on the instrumental, pragmatic values of actions. Reciprocity is of the form: "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours."

Individuals at the second, conventional, level reason about moral situations with an understanding that norms and conventions are necessary to uphold society. Within this level, individuals at Stage 3 define what is right in terms of what is expected by people close to them and in terms of the stereo-typic roles that define being goodfor example, a good brother, mother, teacher. Stage 4 marks the shift from defining what is right in terms of local norms and role expectations to defining right in terms of the laws and norms established by the larger social system. This is the "member of society" perspective in which one is moral by fulfilling the actual duties defining one's social responsibilities.

Finally, the postconventional level is characterized by reasoning based on principles, using a "prior to society" perspective. These individuals reason on the basis of principles that underlie rules and norms. While two stages have been presented within the theory, only one, Stage 5, has received substantial empirical support. Stage 6 remains a theoretical endpoint that rationally follows from the preceding five stages. In essence this last level of moral judgment entails reasoning rooted in the ethical fairness principles from which moral laws would be devised. Laws are evaluated in terms of their coherence with basic principles of fairness rather than upheld simply on the basis of their place within an existing social order.

Kohlberg used findings from his research to reject traditional character education practices that are premised in the idea that virtues and vices are the basis to moral behavior, or that moral character is comprised of a "bag of virtues," such as honesty, kindness, patience, and strength. Kohlberg believed a better approach to affecting moral behavior would focus on stages of moral development. Initial educational efforts employing Kohlberg's theory sought to engage students in classroom discussions of moral dilemmas that would lead to an awareness of contradictions inherent in students' present level of moral reasoning and to shifts toward the next stage of moral judgment. Kohlberg and his colleagues eventually developed the "just community" schools approach toward promoting moral development, described in the 1989 book Lawrence Kohlberg's Approach to Moral Education. These schools seek to enhance moral development by offering students the chance to participate in community discussions to arrive at consensual resolutions of the actual moral problems and issues students face as members of the school community.

Domain Theory: Distinguishing Morality and Convention

In the early 1970s, longitudinal studies conducted by the Kohlberg research group began to reveal anomalies in the stage sequence. One of the most productive lines of research to come out of that period has been the domain theory advanced by Elliot Turiel and his colleagues. Within domain theory a distinction is drawn between the child's developing concepts of morality and other domains of social knowledge, such as social convention. According to domain theory, the child's concepts of morality and social convention emerge out of the child's attempts to account for qualitatively differing forms of social experience associated with these two classes of social events. Actions within the moral domain, such as unprovoked hitting of someone, have intrinsic effects (i.e., the harm that is caused) on the welfare of another person. Such intrinsic effects occur regardless of the nature of social rules that may or may not be in place regarding the action. Because of this, the core features of moral cognition are centered around considerations of the effects that actions have upon the well-being of persons. Morality is structured by concepts of harm, welfare, and fairness. In contrast, actions that are matters of social convention have no intrinsic interpersonal consequences. For example, there is nothing intrinsic to forms of address that makes calling a college teacher "professor" better or worse than calling the person Ms. or simply using her given name. What makes one form of address better than another is the existence of socially agreed-upon rules. These conventions, while arbitrary, are nonetheless important to the smooth functioning of any social group. Conventions provide a way for members of the group to coordinate their social exchanges through a set of agreed-upon and predictable modes of conduct. Concepts of convention, then, are structured by the child's understandings of social organization. These hypothesized distinctions have been sustained through studies since the mid-1970s that have included interviews with children, adolescents, and adults; observations of child-child and adult-child social interactions; cross-cultural studies; and longitudinal studies examining the changes in children's thinking as they grow older.

Educational research from within domain theory has resulted in a set of recommendations for what is termed "domain appropriate" values education. This approach entails the teacher's analysis and identification of the moral or conventional nature of social values issues to be employed in lessons. Such an analysis contributes to the likelihood that the issues discussed are concordant with the domain of the values dimension they are intended to affect. Teachers are also better enabled to lead students through consideration of more complex issues that contain elements from more than one domain.

Carol Gilligan and the Morality of Care

Carol Gilligan, in a 1982 book titled In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development, suggested that a morality of care can serve in the place of the morality of justice and rights espoused by Kohlberg. A way to look at how these differ is to view these two moralities as providing two distinct injunctionsthe injunction not to treat others unfairly (justice) and the injunction not to turn away from someone in need (care). She presents these moralities as distinct, although potentially connected. In her initial work, Gilligan emphasized the gender differences thought to be associated with these two orientations. Further research has suggested, however, that moral reasoning does not follow the distinct gender lines that Gilligan originally reported. The preponderance of evidence is that both males and females reason based on justice and care. While this gender debate is unsettled, Gilligan's work has contributed to an increased awareness that care is an integral component of moral reasoning. Educational approaches based on Gilligan's work have emphasized efforts to foster empathy and care responses in students.

Persisting Controversies

Three primary controversies persist in the field of moral development research. First, there is disagreement over whether morality has universal elements or is cross-cultural. Second, there is disagreement over whether morality develops in stages or levels. Finally, there are unresolved issues regarding the connections between moral judgments and action. The latter is of greatest concern to educators because one of the primary goals of education is to produce citizens who will lead moral lives. The most promising line of work attempting to deal with this issue is exploring the development of what is referred to as the "moral self." This approach assumes that people act on the basis of their moral judgments if being moral is a central part of their sense of personal identity.

See also: Character Development; Kohlberg, Lawrence; Moral Education; Piaget, Jean.

bibliography

Devries, Rheta, and Zan, Betty. 1994. Moral Classrooms, Moral Children: Creating a Constructivist Atmosphere in Early Education. New York: Teachers College Press.

Gilligan, Carol. 1982. In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development. Cam-bridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Keller, Monika, and Edelstein, Wolfgang. 1993. "The Development of the Moral Self from Childhood to Adolescence." In The Moral Self, ed. Gill G. Noam and Thomas E. Wren. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Kohlberg, Lawrence. 1969. "Stage and Sequence: The Cognitive-Developmental Approach to Socialization." In The Handbook of Socialization Theory and Research, ed. David A. Goslin. Chicago: Rand McNally.

Noddings, Nel. 1992. The Challenge to Care in Schools. New York: Teachers College Press.

Nucci, Larry P. 2001. Education in the Moral Domain. Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press.

Piaget, Jean. 1932. The Moral Judgment of the Child. New York: Free Press.

Power, F. Clark; Higgins, Ann; and Kohlberg, Lawrence. 1989. Lawrence Kohlberg's Approach to Moral Education. New York: Columbia University Press.

Larry Nucci

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