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The Development of Morality. Anna Floyd 2004. Presentation Overview. Theory Definition A history of perspectives on moral development Current debates What Develops? Moral Judgment: a closer look at Piaget and Kohlberg Children’s behavior and moral development Observations

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Presentation overview
Presentation Overview

  • Theory

    • Definition

    • A history of perspectives on moral development

    • Current debates

    • What Develops?

    • Moral Judgment: a closer look at Piaget and Kohlberg

  • Children’s behavior and moral development

    • Observations

    • Moral Understanding


Morality - the distinguishing of right from wrong

(However, what is considered right and what is considered wrong is undeniably subjective)

History of theories
History of Theories

  • Freud (1920s)

    • Self-desires vs. social norms

  • Piaget (1932)

    • Moral development stems from individual/ environment interactions

    • Child moves from ‘heteronomous’ to ‘autonomous’ orientation regarding rules

    • (We will return to Piaget shortly)


History of theories1
History of Theories

  • Durkheim (1920s)

    • Morality based on attachment to a group (learned respect for group rules and symbols)

  • 1950s/1960

    • - Guilt and anxiety seen to be child’s

    • motives to adhere to moral principles

    • - Moral development result of

    • society controlling individuals’

    • interests/needs/impulses

History of theories2
History of Theories

  • Kohlberg (1981, 1984)

    • Disagreed with moral development research of the time, designed new measures (we’ll return to Kohlberg shortly)

  • 1970s/1980s

    • Shift from ‘50s and ’60s thinking and to belief that love, sympathy, empathy, bonding, and attachment are motivations for one’s moral growth

History of theories3
History of Theories

  • 1970s/1980s (con’t)

    • Children show emotions and bond with others

    • Show altruistic behavior by age 2

    • Show empathic behavior by age 3

    • NOTE: these behaviors are exhibited even when children do not fear punishment, contradicting 1950/1960 views

      • Preschoolers exhibit helping behavior (Bar-Tal, Raviv, & Goldberg, 1982)

History of theories4
History of Theories

  • Kagan (1981, 1984)

    • Believed that feelings play important role in making judgments

    • Noted that a society’s moral issues are decided by how intensely people react to them (ex: abortion)

      • How can we be certain of causality here?

  • Hoffman (1984)

    • Empathy is key in moral motivation

  • History of theories5
    History of Theories

    • Hoffman (con’t)

      • Four Stages (development of empathy):

        • Global distress – infants (confusing one’s emotions with those of others)

        • Egocentric empathy – age 1 (still unaware that other’s have feelings, but no longer consumed by others’ feelings)

        • Empathy for another’s feelings – age 2 or 3

        • Empathy for another’s life conditions – after toddlerhood (awareness that others have life histories separate from yours)

    Current debates
    Current Debates

    • 1. What is the role of Emotion?

      • Perhaps moral judgment is not rational at all

      • Still being debated, though not new issue

        • Philosophers Hume (1700s) Smith (1700s), as well as Freud, considered the role of emotion in decision making)

    • 2. Is moral development linear? (Following stages)?

    • 3. How is morality tied to context/culture? Where does morality surface?

      • In character traits?

      • In valuing a community?

      • In one’s personal habits?

    Current debates1
    Current Debates

    • Perspective: Morality currently big issue for American society

      • The perceived declining of American morals

    • Has put pressure on schools to uplift

    • children’s moral standards through

    • adult control (as opposed to

    • peer-led problem solving)

    • Emphasis preferred on how one acts,

    • not on one’s state of mind

    What develops
    What Develops?

    • Moral development is the process of transfiguring cognitive structures, dependent on cognitive development and experiencing social environment

    • It is NOT the imprinting of rules and virtues, as was previously thought

      (Duska & Whelan, 1975)

    Measuring moral development
    Measuring Moral Development

    • Two foci

      • Moral judgment

        • Decision making

        • Understanding of social rules/norms

          • Kohlberg, Piaget, Gilligan

      • Moral understanding

        • Understanding of ‘standards’ in the world

        • Ability to understand others’ feelings

          • Lamb, Dunn, Kagan

    Moral judgment piaget
    Moral Judgment: Piaget

    • Piaget’s Marbles Game Observation

      • Observed children at various ages playing marbles to understand how children perceive rules

    Moral judgment kohlberg
    Moral Judgment: Kohlberg

    • Developed new method for measuring moral development

    • Believed children more interested and more thoughtful

      than did other current psychologistsof the time

      • “The child as a moral philosopher”

    • Thought children’s ways of thinking develop out of social experiences (similar to Piaget)

    • Focus on how children make life judgments

      • Created hypothetical story pitting one or more moral dilemmas against each other



    Heinz’s Dilemma

    "In Europe, a woman was near death from a special kind of cancer.  There was one drug that the doctors thought might save her.  It was a form of radium that a druggist in the same town had recently discovered.  The drug was expensive to make, but the druggist was charging ten times what the drug cost him to make.  He paid $400 for the radium and charged $4000 for a small dose of the drug.  The sick woman’s husband, Heinz, went to everyone he knew to borrow the money and tried every legal means, but he could only get together about $2000, which is half of what it cost.  He told the druggist that his wife was dying, and asked him to sell it cheaper or let him pay later.  But the druggist said, ‘No, I discovered the drug and I’m going to make money from it.’  So, having tried every legal means, Heinz gets desperate and considers breaking into the man’s store to steal the drug for his wife." (cited from website: )

    Question: Did Heinz do the right thing? Why or why not?

    Kohlberg s measures
    Kohlberg’s Measures

    • Six stages children progress through:

      • 1 and 2 – Preconventional

        • Judgments based on obedience and punishment

      • 3 and 4 – Conventional

        • Judgments based on roles/stereotypes “good” vs. “bad” people; respect for rules/authority

      • 5 and 6 – Postconventional

        • Judgments based on agreement between groups, mutual respect, concepts of rights/justice

    Kohlberg s measures1

    • Six stages (con’t)

      • Respect for rules/authority not in place until adolescence

      • All cultures have similar stages at levels 1-4, but may differ at stages 5 and 6

      • Studies indicate that Conservatives and Liberals exhibit different levels of moral reasoning: Conservatives - Stage 4, Liberals - Stage 5

        (Emler, Palmer-Canton, & St. James, 1998; Emler & Stace, 1999, in Nucci, 2003)

      • Stage 6 no longer used – very few people reached it

    Kohlberg s influence
    Kohlberg’s Influence

    • Began shift in psychology

      • Old belief: children developed morality in response to social pressures

      • New belief: children develop morality as result of actively processing their own social experiences

    • Critique of Kohlberg

      • Based on belief that decision making will be rational

      • Some people backtrack to previous stages

      • (Gilligan, 1980s) Morality of males/females is different; Kohlberg’s method is based on male perspective

    Justice vs care
    Justice vs. Care

    • Gilligan’s response to Kohlberg: males and females differ in their moral development

      • Male morality based on justice

        • focus on rules, rights, autonomy

      • Female morality based on care

        • fulfillment of responsibility, avoidance of exploitation

          • Piaget and Freud interpreted female devotion to care as a need for approval, not a moral practice

    • Critique of Gilligan

      • No cross-culturally flexibility

      • Males and females typically did not differ in their responses on Kohlberg’s measures


    Leaving theory section

    Now a look at children's behavior

    Moral understanding
    Moral Understanding

    • There are two cognitive developments crucial to developing an understanding of morality

      • 1) Ability to understand others’ feelings

      • 2)Understanding the ‘standards’ of the world

        • Illustrates the child’s interest in understanding the standards of adults

          • How can we be sure this is a step in moral development?

    Emotional developments
    Emotional Developments

    • Children’s behavior and range of emotions increase as children grow

    • Psychological understandings increase

      • Perspective taking

      • Ability to analyze appropriateness of behavior

      • Co-construction possible

    Attribution of emotions
    Attribution of Emotions

    • The happy victimizer study (Barden, Zelko, Duncan, & Masters, 1980; Nunner-Winkler & Sodian, 1988, in Nucci, 2003)

      • Children presented with vignette: A child is debating whether or not to steal candy from a classmate’s jacket pocket.

      • All children report that it is “wrong” to steal the candy, but their attributions of the protagonist’s feelings differ

    Affect attributed

    Affect attributed

    Cognitive developments
    Cognitive Developments

    • Distinguishing Morality from Authority

      • Damon (1977): children will not obey parental suggestion to engage in immoral task

      • Acts gain importance over authority status (ages 4-6)

    • Recognize and respond prosocially to moral dilemma narratives

      • By three years of age (Oppenheim, et al., 1997)

    • Interpretation of transgression

      • Distinguish between moral and conventional transgressions

        • Occurs at around age 3

        • Cross-culturally generalizable finding

        • Parents discuss moral/conventional transgressions differently

      • Rate of transgressions increases with age

    Behavioral changes
    Behavioral Changes

    Changes children make in second year and how we know they make them

    Awareness of standards an observational study lamb in garrod 1993
    Awareness of Standards: an observational study (Lamb, in Garrod, 1993)

    • Study to address children’s awareness of standards

    • Method

      • Four (4) children observed with mothers between ages 13-14 mo. and 21-22 mo.

      • Observations occurred every 3-4 weeks for 2.5 hours

      • Noted child activities, mothers audio taped

    • Observations showing an awareness of standards:

      • Achievement comments “I did it!”

      • Awareness of flaws

      • “uh-oh”

      • Labels things “yucky” or “bad” or “good”

      • Questions mother about standard rules

      • Shows awareness of violation and restrains or

        doesn’t restrain self

    Awareness of standards an observational study lamb in garrod 19931
    Awareness of Standards: an observational study (Lamb, in Garrod, 1993)

    • Three stage Development based on AOS observations:

      • 1. Initial Phase

        • Conflicting wants

        • Child feels frustrated, but little other emotion expressed

      • 2. Transitional Phase

        • Experimentation with standards

        • Child feels happy to transgress; interest is shown in standards, but no interest in adhering to them

      • 3. Later Phase

        • Understanding of standards

        • Child feels a desire to uphold standards; questions mother often about her wishes

    Awareness of standards an observational study lamb in garrod 19932
    Awareness of Standards: an observational study (Lamb, in Garrod, 1993)

    • Development of Empathy seen through

      • Child’s response to mother’s distress

        • Before age 2: staring, laughter, or distress

        • After age 2: signs of empathy: concern- hugging, kissing, saying ‘mommy’

          • Is this really empathy?

    • Main outcomes:

      • Middle of second year is big in the emergence of morality

      • Awareness of standards ~ 17 mo

      • Appearance of empathy ~ 18 mo


    • Big shift in theory of moral development (1970)

      • 1950s and ‘60s – guilt and anxiety seen to be child’s motives to adhere to moral principles

      • 1970s and ‘80s – love, sympathy, empathy, bonding, and attachment are motivations for one’s moral growth

    • Two foci

      • Moral judgment

      • Moral understanding

    • Observations of children

      • Children progress through stages of understanding rules, norms, others’ feelings

      • Awareness of standards

      • Capacity for empathy


    • Turiel, E. (1998). The Development of morality. In W. Damon & N. Eisenberg (Eds.), Handbook of Child Psychology (pp. 863-932). New York: John Wiley & Sons.

    • Lamb, S. The Beginnings of Morality. In A. Garrod (Ed.) Approaches to Moral Development (pp. 9-29), Teachers College Press: New York, 1993.

    • Dunn, J. The Beginnings of Moral Understanding: Development in the Second Year. In J. Kagan & S. Lamb (Eds.) The Emergence of Morality in Young Children (pp. 91-112) University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1987.

    • Bar-Tal, D., Raviv, A., & Goldberg, M. (1982). Helping behavior among preschool children: an observational study. Child Development, 53, 396-402.

    • Nucci, L.P. (2002). The Development of moral reasoning. In U. Goswami (Ed.), Blackwell Handbook of Childhood Cognitive Development (pp.303-325). Malden: Blackwell Publishing.

    • Oppenheim, D., et al. (1997). Preschoolers face moral dilemmas: a longitudinal study of acknowledging and resolving internal conflict. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 78, 943-957.

    • Duska, R., & Whelan, M. Moral Development: A Guide to Piaget and Kohlberg, Paulist Press: New York, 1975.