Concept of Moral Development

Concept of Moral
Development
Moral development focuses on the
emergence, change, and understanding of
morality
from infancy through adulthood. In the field of moral development, morality is
defined as principles for how individuals ought to treat one another, with
respect to
justice,
others’ welfare, and
rights.
In order to investigate how individuals understand morality, it is essential to
measure their beliefs, emotions, attitudes, and behaviors that contribute to
moral understanding. The field of moral development studies the role of peers
and parents in facilitating moral development in the life of children, the role
of conscience and values, socialization and cultural influences, empathy and
altruism, and positive development. The interest in morality spans many
disciplines (e.g.,
philosophy, economics,
biology,
and
political science) and specializations
within psychology (e.g.,
social,
cognitive, and cultural). Moral developmental
psychology research focuses on questions of origins and change in morality
across the lifespan.
The
founder of psychoanalysis,
Freud (2010),
proposed the existence of a tension between the needs of society and the
individual.
[1] According to Freud,
the moral development proceeds when the individual’s selfish desires are
repressed and replaced by the values of important socializing agents in one’s
life (for instance, one’s parents). A proponent of behaviorism,
Skinner (2008) similarly
focused on socialization as the primary force behind moral development. In
contrast to Freud’s notion of a struggle between internal and external forces,
Skinner focused on the power of external forces (reinforcement contingencies)
to shape an individual’s development. While both Freud and Skinner focused on
the external forces that bear on morality (parents in the case of Freud, and
behavioral contingencies in the case of Skinner),
Piaget (2005) focused on the
individual’s construction, construal, and interpretation of morality from a
social-cognitive and social-emotional perspective.
[3]
To understand
adult morality, Piaget believed that it was necessary to study both how
morality manifests in the child’s world as well as the factors that contribute
to the emergence of central moral concepts such as welfare, justice, and
rights. Interviewing children using the Clinical Interview Method, Piaget (2005)
found that young children were focused on authority mandates, and that with age
children become autonomous, evaluating actions from a set of independent
principles of morality.
Kohlberg (2008) expanded upon
Piagetian notions of moral development.
[4] While they both
viewed moral development as a result of a deliberate attempt to increase the
coordination and integration of one’s orientation to the world, Kohlberg’s
studies and research provided a
systematic
3-level, 6-stage sequence
reflecting
changes in moral judgment throughout the lifespan. Specifically, Kohlberg
argued that development proceeds from a selfish desire to avoid punishment
(personal), to a concern for group functioning (societal), to a concern for the
consistent application of universal ethical principles (moral).Furthermore,
Kohlberg believed that in order for a child to advance to a more developed
level of morality, he or she must develop an equivalent level of intellectual
ability. In the words of Kohlberg, “ 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”.
[5] Although Kohlberg is
praised for his work there have been many questions raised whether or not it is
100% accurate. Many people believe his six-stage theory was sexist because only
males were in the test group for this study. Regardless, Kolberg’s research
cemented his expanded ideas on moral development as legitimate in the field of
developmental psychology.
Turiel (1983, 1998, 2002, 2006)
argued for a social domain approach to social cognition, delineating how
individuals differentiate moral (fairness, equality, justice), societal
(conventions, group functioning, traditions), and psychological (personal,
individual prerogative) concepts from early in development throughout the
lifespan.
[6] Over the past 40
years, research findings have supported this model, demonstrating how children,
adolescents, and adults differentiate moral rules from conventional rules,
identify the personal domain as a nonregulated domain, and evaluate
multifaceted (or complex) situations that involve more than one domain. This
research has been conducted in a wide range of countries (Argentina, Australia,
Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan,
Korea, Nigeria, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, U.K., U.S., Virgin Islands) and
with rural and urban children, for low and high income communities, and
traditional and modern cultures. Turiel’s social domain theory showed that
children were actually younger in developing moral standards than past
psychologists predicted.
Interpersonal influences on moral development of Pupils
Children’s
interactions with parents, caregivers and peers have been shown to influence
their development of moral understanding and behavior. Researchers have
addressed the influence of interpersonal interactions on children’s moral
development from two primary perspectives: socialization/internalization
(Grusec & Goodnow, 1994;
[8] Kochanska & Askan, 1995;[9] Kochanska, Askan, & Koenig, 1995[10]) and social domain theory (Turiel, 1983;[6] Smetana 2006[11]). Research from the social domain theory perspective
focuses on how children actively distinguish moral from conventional behavior
based in part on the responses of parents, teachers, and peers (Smetana, 1997
[12]). Adults tend to respond to children’s moral transgressions
(e.g. hitting or stealing) by drawing the child’s attention to the effect of
his or her action on others, and doing so consistently across various contexts.
In contrast, adults are more likely to respond to children’s conventional
misdeeds (e.g. wearing a hat in the classroom, eating spaghetti with fingers)
by reminding children about specific rules and doing so only in certain
contexts (e.g. at school but not at home) (Smetana, 1984;
[13] 1985[14]). Peers respond mainly to moral but not conventional
transgressions and demonstrate emotional distress (e.g. crying or yelling) when
they are the victim of moral but not conventional transgressions (Smetana,
1984). Children then use these differing cues to help determine whether
behaviors are conventionally wrong.
Research
from a socialization/internalization perspective focuses on the ways in which
adults pass down standards of behavior to children through parenting techniques
and why children do or do not internalize those values (Grusec & Goodnow,
1994; Kochanska & Askan, 1995). From this perspective, moral development
involves children’s increasing compliance with and internalization of adult
rules, requests, and standards of behavior. Using these definitions,
researchers find that parenting behaviors vary in the extent to which they
encourage children’s internalization of values, and that these effects depend
partially on child attributes, such as age and
temperament (Grusec & Goodnow, 1994). For instance, Kochanska
(1997) showed that gentle parental discipline best promotes conscience
development in temperamentally fearful children but that parental
responsiveness and a mutually responsive parent-child orientation best promote
conscience development in temperamentally fearless children.
[15] These parental influences exert their effects through
multiple pathways, including increasing children’s experience of moral emotions
(e.g. guilt, empathy) and their self-identification as moral individuals
(Kochanska, 2010).
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