Freud- moral development

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  • Operates on the morality principle
  • Develops at age 5 in the Oedipus and Electra complexes during the Phallic stage
  • The internal parent- reflects the values and morals of our parents

Ego Ideal:

  • Provides a model for the type of behaviour we should perform
  • Acting in accordance leads to an increase in pride and self esteem


  • Produce feelings of gulit when we act in violation of the principles of the super ego (ego ideal)
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Development of the superego

  • Developed at age 5 as a consequence of the child passing through the Oedipus (boys) and Electra (girls) complex
  • This leads to identification with the same sex parent which results in the internalisation of the parent's moral code and therefore forming the superego
  • Freud stated that boys have a stronger more internalised moral code than girls due to the fear of loss (castration anxiety) being greater than fearing what has already been lost/the desire to gain (castration=penis envy), which results in boys indentifying more strongly with their fathers
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  • Age of 5: Both Piaget and Freud see the age of 5 as a critical time for moral development. Nelson and Smetana both give evidance that morality develops before the age of 5 (Nelson found 3 yr olds could take intention into account meaning they could make moral judgements
  • Gender: Freuds theory is accused of having an andocentric bias, which is criticised by Gilligan- tackled by Walker study (used K-berg's MD's and Gilligan's real life scenarios and found now difference in the results of males and females)
  • Scientific evidence: Theory is based in the unconscious which is unfalsifiable
  • One parent families: Cannot explain how children develop a moral understanding with only one parent as no conflict can be created
  • 'One fell swoop': K-berg states it happens in stages that are related to age, Turiel states moral judgement is acquired from birth and runs in parallel through development
  • Other factors: Influences other than parents have been found to effect moral development e.g. friends, teachers, media ect.
  • Strengths: Highlights people's experiences of inner conflicts
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