You are on page 1of 42

Moral Development

March 29 – April 3
How do
children learn
right from
wrong? Morality has three
Emotional, cognitive, and
• Evolutionary, genetic heritage
• Brain areas

• Freud: superego and guilt

Perspectives Psychoanalytic
• Today: induction, empathy-based guilt
Both focus on
on Moral internalization
of social
Development Social Learning Modeling moral behavior standards

Children as active thinkers about social rules
Approach to
Understanding Morality
 Altruism, reciprocity seen in other species
 Bases for morality: empathy, caring, self-
Evidence for sacrifice
the  Biased to help family groups, communities
Evolutionary  Social exchange aids group function, survival
Approach  Natural selection fostered altruism
 Prewired emotional reactions, like empathy
 Ventromedial and orbitofrontal prefrontal cortex
Psychoanalytic Approach
to Understanding
Morality: Role of Guilt
 Freud’s Oedipal and Electra
 Fear of punishment/loss of parental
love  competition with same sex
 Superego (conscience) develops
Role of Guilt  Internalize norms of same-sex parents
 Hostility that was directed at same-sex
parent becomes directed inward (guilt)
when they disobey the superego

 Moral development complete by age 5

or 6
 Children experience guilt when they hurt
another person.
Modern  Harsh punishment and threat are not
researchers effective.
disagree with  Parents who are warm and responsive have
Freud’s children who feel more guilt after misdeeds.
emphasis on
 Helps child notice others’ feelings
by pointing out effects of
misbehavior on others
 Note other’s distress and make
clear the child caused the distress
Inductive  Empathy-based guilt
Discipline  Children whose parents use these
techniques behave more
 Moral identity in adolescence –
endorsement of moral values as
central to self-concept
 Information about how to behave
(rather than just what not to do) Threats,
 Emphasizes the impact of the psychological
child’s behavior on others to control, and harsh
motivate prosocial behavior
Why does  Empathy and sympathy
punishments may
make a child too
induction  Encourages moral reasoning and anxious, angry, or
the adoption of moral standards
work?  Develop scripts for the
frightened that
consequences of harming others they cannot think
about what they
 Explanations help children
understand the fairness behind did or should do.
discipline  internalization
 Empathic children
require less power
Child Factors Temperament
in Inductive  Anxious: mild,
Discipline patient tactics
 Fearless: warm
relationship, firm
Social Learning: Modeling
and Reinforcing Moral
Moral behavior is
modeling and then
Modeling and Models who are:
Reinforcing  Warm and
Moral  Competent and
Behavior powerful
Kids imitate the
 Act in line with people they like and
their assertions the people they look
(are consistent) up to
 Physical punishment and frequent punishment have
undesirable effects.
 Weak internalization of moral values
Harsh  Depression, anxiety, aggression, behavioral problems, etc.
punishment  Why?
affects the  Physical punishment models aggression
 Harshly treated children get angry and feel threatened,
learning of focusing on their own distress instead of feeling guilt or
sympathy toward others
moral rules  It hurts the parent-child relationship, start to avoid the
and behavior. punitive parent
 Harsh punishment is immediately rewarding for the parent 
use more frequently  abuse
 Intergenerational transmission
Consistency, warmth, explanations
Time-outs, withdrawing privileges
Effective Positive parenting – praise good behavior
Alternatives to
 Build mutually respectful bond
 Let the child know how to act ahead of time
Positive  Praise mature behavior
Parenting  Foster a closer relationship
 Tactics
 Use transgressions as opportunities to teach
 Reduce opportunities for misbehavior
 Provide reasons for rules
 Family routines/duties
 Compromise/problem solving
 Encourage maturity
 Be sensitive to physical and emotional resources
Approach to
Understanding Morality
 Morality can’t simply be about obeying rules and how
you learned to obey rules.
 Sometimes acting ethically is at odds with prevailing
social norms/rules.
Criticisms of  Norms compete – how do children then choose which
norm to follow?
Morality as
of Rules” Cognitive-
approaches believe
that morality is
constructed by
attending to multiple
perspectives in
conflict situations
Stage Age Rules Morality Mechanism
Stage 1: 5-8 Permanent, Wrongness is Rules handed
Morality of unchangeable, based on down by
Constraint require strict outcomes/consequ authorities
Piaget’s obedience ences, not
Theory of Transition 7/8- Constructed by Perspective- Increased
Moral Period 10 the group taking; moral
Development Stage 2: 11+ Socially agreed Ideal Reciprocity; Increased
Autonomous upon and flexible moral relativism; peer
Morality fairness/equality; interaction;
motives are cognitive
important skills
Children can judge intentions earlier than
Young children center more often on
Evaluations of consequences, interpret intentions rigidly.
Piaget’s Young children question basis of authority.
Theory Many children show both heteronomous and
autonomous reasoning – doubts about stages.
Moral development process extends longer than
Piaget thought.
 Lawrence Kohlberg
 We learn from interacting with
Kohlberg’s  Strongly influenced by Piaget
Stages of
 Assessed moral judgment by
Moral presenting children with
Development hypothetical moral dilemmas
and then questioning them
about the issues involved in
their moral judgments
 In Europe, a woman was near death from cancer.
One drug might save her, a form of radium that a
druggist in the same town had recently
discovered. The druggist was charging $2,000,
ten times what the drug cost him to make. The
sick woman’s husband, Heinz, went to everyone
Heinz he knew to borrow the money, but he could only
Dilemma get together about half of what it cost. He told
the druggist that his wife was dying and asked
him to sell it cheaper or let him to sell it cheaper
or let him pay later. But the druggist said, “No.”
The husband got desperate and broke into the
man’s store to steal the drug for his wife. Should
the husband have done that? Why?
Followed boys
longitudinally Preconventional Level Stage 1: Punishment Outcomes for self
– judge by consequences and obedience
Stage 2: Instrumental Choice and self-interest
Kohlberg’s Conventional Level – Stage 3: “Good boy- Morality of interpersonal
Stages of rules are important for good-girl” cooperation; Golden Rule
relationships and social
Moral order
Stage 4: Social Order Rules to bring order to
Development Postconventional Level Stage 5: Social Contract Rules can be changed for
– abstract principles and the good of the people
values that apply to all Stage 6: Universal Ethical principles that are
Stages, invariant situations/societies ethical principles good for all humanity
Age Trends in
 Seen in preschool children, most elementary
school students, some JH students, and a few
HS students

Preconventional  Concerned with personal interest

Level: Stage 1  Obedience and punishment
 Deference to superior power or prestige

 What would happen to Heinz if he did this?

Would he get punished?
 Seen in preschool children, most elementary
school students, some JH students, and a few
HS students

 Concerned with personal interests

Preconventional  Right action is what is instrumental in satisfying
the self’s needs and occasionally others’ needs
Level: Stage 2  Exchange and reciprocity

 What would Heinz get out of stealing the drug?

Would it be beneficial for him? Is it worth the
personal risk?
 Seen in a few elementary students, some JH
students, and many HS students

 “Good girl” “good boy”

 Orientation towards approval, to pleasing and
helping others
Conventional  Action is evaluated in terms of intentions
Level: Stage 3
 What would stealing the drug say about Heinz
as a person?
 Would stealing the drug make him a bad person?
 Would stealing the drug make him a good father
and husband?
 Seen in a few elementary students, some JH
students, and many HS students (rare before HS)

 Maintaining Norms
 Doing one’s duty and showing respect for authority
Conventional  Maintaining social order for its own sake. Is there a law
that prohibits the action?
Level: Stage 4
 If everyone followed their base desires, we would
have chaos. There’s a reason the laws exist.
 What if everyone stole what they wanted or needed?
 What if everyone marked up necessary items so that
they could make a profit?
Level 4
Rarely seen before college
Self-Accepted Moral Principles
 Norms of right and wrong have influence
Post- from laws and rules, but have a rational
Conventional:  Conflict between individual needs and laws
Stage 5  laws must prevail because they provide
for the majority will and welfare
Does stealing have benefit for more
people than just Heinz?
 Age range?
 Self-Accepted Moral Principles
 Social rules BUT conscience as a directing
 Principles of moral choice because of universal
Post- human rights (human rights, justice, equality)
Conventional:  May go against laws or rest of society in the
Stage 6 process
 Few people reach this stage
 It’s not even included on many measures
 What is more important: profit or human
 Reasoning vs. Behavior
 Can a person think this way?
 Will he/see act that way in a real life dilemma?
 Bias against women (Carol Gilligan)
 Kohlberg doesn’t say anything about gender
Criticisms of  Women: base explanations on caring and personal
Kohlberg relationships (Stage 3)
 Men: base explanations on justice and equity
(Stage 5)
 Does Stage 6 exist?
 Domain Specific
 Cultural Differences
Influences on  Caring, supportive
Moral  Discuss moral
Peer interaction
Trends in Morality cannot be only cognition – there
Moral is an emotional component.
What comes first – emotion or cognition?
(still cognitive)
 There are specific innate, universally available moral foundations
 Intuitive – automatic, rapid, affective, and non-rational

 Our mind makes “aesthetic judgments” of dilemmas

 Gut-level emotions cause us to construct moral ideas of right and wrong
Jonathon  E.g., disgust, fear, elevation, mirth

Haidt  Also studied moral decision making and emotions with vignettes
 E.g., family dog is killed by a car. Family cooks and eats the dog.
 E.g., man buys a dead chicken at the store and masturbates with it.
 E.g., woman doesn’t want flag anymore, so she cuts it into pieces and uses the
rags to clean her bathroom
 Care/harm
 Feel (and dislike) pain of others
 Attachment
 Fairness/Cheating
 Justice, rights, autonomy
 Proportionality/Equality (Conservative/Liberal)
Haidt’s Model  Loyalty/Betrayal
– Foundations  Patriotism, self-sacrifice
 Authority/Subversions
 Leaders & Followers
 Respect for legitimate authority and traditions
 Sanctity/Degradation
 Disgust/contamination
 “Body as a temple”
Haidt’s Model
Social Domain Theory
A little bit learning, a little bit cognition.
Children develop the capacity to
distinguish between moral imperatives,
social conventions, and matters of
Social Domain  From social experiences
Theory  Develop relatively early, by 3-4 years
 By school-age, children distinguish between
conventions that have purpose and those
that do not AND take into account
intentions, context, knowledge, and beliefs
Moral Imperatives Social Conventions
 Protect people’s
 Customs such as
rights and welfare
table manners or
Social Domain  Victims and other dress styles
Theory children react
 Peers seldom react
strongly to moral
to violations of social
 Adults explain rights
 Adults explain less,
and feelings of
demand obedience.
Personal Choice
Choices that do
not violate others
Social Domain rights are up to
Theory the individual
Challenges to
authority occur
most within this