Moral Development

3 Components of Morality

1. emotional component

2. cognitive component

3. behavioral component

Piaget's Theory of Moral Development


moral realism (heteronomous morality):

children view rules as real, indestructible things


moral relativism (autonomous morality):

rules are viewed as agreements that may be


Kohlberg's 3 Levels of Moral Reasoning




judgment are based on one's own needs and perceptions


punishment & obedience orientation

1. fear of authority and avoidance of punishment


instrumental purpose orientation

1. satisfying personal needs determines moral choice


Conventional Level


taking into account expectations of society and law


good boy/girl orientation

1. maintaining the affection and approval of friends & relatives motivates good



social-order-maintaining orientation

1. a duty to uphold laws and rules for their own sake justifies moral conformity


Post-conventional Level


judgments are based on principles that go beyond specific laws


social contract orientation

1. fair procedures for changing laws to protect individual rights and the needs of the

majority are emphasized


universal ethical principle orientation

1. abstract universal principles that are valid for all humanity guide moral decision


Cheating Example

Sharon is a student in a math class. Her parents often become abusive when she gets bad grades.

She has not been doing very well and is considering cheating on an upcoming math test. Should

she cheat on the exam?

Sample Responses to Cheating Example


No: If caught, she will be punished.

(Stage 1: punishment & obedience orientation)


Yes: She will get a higher grade.

(Stage 2: instrumental purpose orientation)


Yes: A high grade will please her parents.

(Stage 3: good boy/girl orientation)


No: Cheating is against the rules.

(Stage 4: social-order-maintaining orientation)


No: Cheating is unfair to other students.

(Stage 5: social contract orientation)


No: Cheating is wrong in principle.

(Stage 6: universal ethical principle orientation)

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Criticisms of Kohlberg


not everyone reaches postconventional level


cultural differences


sex differences: females' morality judgments are based on concern for others, not justice

Carol Gilligan's Criticisms


Kohlberg's theory of moral development is not true for girls


boys and girls are taught to value different qualities


both styles of moral reasoning are equally valid

Carol Gilligan on Kohlberg's Theory

"Kohlberg's six stages that describe the development of moral judgment from childhood to

adulthood are based empirically on a study of eighty-four boys whose development Kohlberg has

followed for a period of over twenty years. Although Kohlberg claims universality for his stage

sequence, those groups not included in his original sample rarely reach his higher stages.

Prominent among those who thus appear to be deficient in moral development when measured by

Kohlberg's scale are women, whose judgments seem to exemplify the third stage of his six-stage

sequence. At this stage morality is conceived in interpersonal terms and goodness is equated with

helping and pleasing others. This conception of goodness is considered by Kohlberg and Kramer

to be functional in the lives of mature women insofar as their lives take place in the home.

Kohlberg and Kramer imply that only if women enter the traditional arena of male activity will

they recognize the inadequacy of this moral perspective and progress like men toward higher

stages where relationships are subordinated to rules (stage four) and rules to universal principles

of justice (stages five and six).

"Yet herein lies a paradox, for the very traits that traditionally have defined the

"goodness" of women, their care for and sensitivity to the needs of others, are those that mark

them as deficient in moral development. In this version of moral development, however, the

conception of maturity is derived from the study of men's lives and reflects the importance of

individuation in their development." [p. 18 in

In a Different Voice

by Carol Gilligan (1982)]

Male Moral Reasoning (Gilligan)


boys think more in terms of how to apply general ethical principles to specific moral



boys learn to emphasize independence, autonomy, and the rights of others


thus, boys tend to ignore or minimize the possible needs of others

Female Moral Reasoning (Gilligan)


girls tend to develop an

ethics of care

(integrates moral principles w/ the contexts in which

judgments are made)


viewing ethics in context grows out of a general concern for the needs of others more than for

one's independence

Two Moral Voices (Gilligan)

1) Male: equality, reciprocity, justice, and rights

a) morality imposes restrictions on what you can do (justice orientation)

2) Female: connection, peace, care and response

a) morality is an imperative to care for others (responsibility orientation)

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Ethics of Care Stages




individual survival

Transition: selfishness to responsibility to others


self-sacrifice is good

Transition: goodness to truth that she is a person too


do not hurt others/self

A Word of Caution About Gilligan's Concerns


Research suggests the observed differences between girls' and boys' moral reasoning styles

are only tendencies, not definite gender differences.

Environmental Influences on Moral Reasoning

1) Peer Interaction

a) research supports Piaget's belief that interaction with peers can promote moral


b) cognitively probing, emotionally involved exchanges between peers stimulates moral


2) Good Child-Rearing Practices

a) encourage participation in family decisions

b) fair discipline

c) high levels of warmth

3) Schooling

a) years of schooling is a strong predictor of moral development

b) school exposes children to morally relevant subject matter

c) school provides an opportunity to interact w/ teachers and peers about moral concerns

4) Culture

a) people in industrialized societies move through Kohlberg's stages more quickly than

people in non-industrialized societies

Kohlberg's Just Community


He believed that there was potential for moral growth from democratic community

participation and decision making.


Application of his just community: a "just prison" for women

Moral vs. Social-Conventional Understanding


moral rules:

rules that protect people's rights and welfare


social conventions:

arbitrary customs and rituals of social interaction (e.g., shoes & shirt


Distinction Between 2 Types of Understanding


young children make these distinctions by observing how people react to violation of moral

rules vs. social convention

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Distributive Justice


beliefs about how to divide up resources fairly


parental advice and encouragement support these developing standards of justice


peer interaction, however, is very important

Development of Distributive Justice

1) at first ideas of fairness are based on



2) fairness is later viewed in terms of





(age 8): special consideration for those in need

Eisenberg's Prosocial Reasoning


the cost of helping others is putting one's own needs aside


Eisenberg's developmental levels resemble Kohlberg's stages


empathic feelings may encourage prosocial behavior

Moral Self-Control (Resistance to Temptation)


first sign of self-control Ë compliance


ability to delay gratification improves for preschoolers with presentation of self-control


2 Forms of Aggression that Emerge During 1st Year


instrumental aggression:

unintentional hostility


hostile aggression:

intentional aggression; a desire to hurt

The Family's Role in the Development of Aggression


lack of love, power assertion, inconsistent discipline lead to antisocial behavior


cycle of hostile interactions

Controlling Childhood Aggression


end cycle of family hostility


teach more effective ways of dealing with others


development of empathic ability (no experience at home)