Moral Develoment - Psychology A2

Theories of moral devlopment in the Cognitive Devlopment topic of A2 Psychology

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  • Created by: Laura
  • Created on: 10-06-10 12:23

Piaget's theory

Moral development is supported by cognitive development and so also develops in stages linked to age. These stages are;

Amoral --- No concept of morality, wrong is simply what is punished.

Heteronomous --- Rules are imposed by external forces and are unbreakable. 'Naughty' behaviour is always punished.

Autonomous --- Rules are flexible. Intentions are more important than consequences & punishments are tailored to crime.

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Piaget's methods

Piaget used 2 main methods;

1) Marbles children were observed playing marbles (since this game has few real rules) his results supported his stages.

2) Vignettes children were presented with 2 moral dilemnas, usually one involving a child who had been deliberately naughty and the other one who had broken a rule accidentally. Younger children felt the naughtiest child was the one who had created the most damage.

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Evaluation of Piaget

  • Like his work on congitive development, has provoked lots of discussion and follow-up research
  • Generally agreed moral development is in stages
  • Marbles not realistic way of assesing moral beliefs, more concerned with social rules.
  • Vignettes unscientific; there was 2 independant variables (amount of damage + intention). Results unreliable.
  • Use of wording in stories confusing? Moral dilemnas presented in different ways produced different results.
  • Possibly under-estimated stages.
  • Observing a childs behaviour does not necessarily provide insight into their beliefs.
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Evaluation of Kohlberg

  • Continues stages into adolescence and adulthood, going furthur and more in deth than Piaget.
  • Supported by longtitudinal and cross-cultural studies but very few particpants reached level 5.
  • Underestimated young children.
  • Technique of classification and coding is subjective reducing reliability (but his method does give qualatitve data)
  • Gender Bias - his MJIs used only male participants. Also, when later testing females he concluded females less morally developed. Gilligan claims Kohlberg's MJI is biased toward males as males and females think differently and so have different types of moral orientation.
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Kohlberg's Theory.

Also linked to cognitive development and created stages;

Pre-Conventional: moral rules are imposed by adults

Conventional: moral rules of social group are internalised and accepted without question.

Post-Conventional: individual uses own values and princiles to make moral judgments.

He divided each of these level into 2 stages , so overall there are 6 stages.

Punishment and obedience orientation, individualism purpose and exchange, Mutual interpersonal expectations (good boy), Law and order orientation, Social contract orientation, Universal ethical principles.

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Kohlberg's Methods

Conducted Moral Judgment Interviews (MJIs) were children were asked to consider several moral dilemnas and comment on actions of the characters involved. He coded and classified the responses from each age group and so formed the stages.

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Pro-Social Reasoning (Eisenburg)

Eisenburg looked at pro-social actions rather than morally wrong situations. She also developed a stage model;

Hedonistic Reasoning: concerned with potential gain for self

Needs Orientation: thinks about needs of individual and helps in response

Approval and Interpersonal Orientation: helps to gain approval of others

Self-Reflective Empathetic Orientation: emphasises with individual's feelings

Transitional Stage: combination of above + below stages

Strongly Internalised Orientation: refers to internal moral principles.

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Eisenburg's methods + evaluation

She also developed a series of moral dilemnas and presented them to individuals and used results to develop stages. She also did a longtitudinal study whereby children were initially studied at age 4 then followed up untill age 16. (Dilemnas were developed to suit age of participant.) Found support for stages and also gender differences which emerged in adolescence.

  • Longditudinal studies enable researcher to look at development of moral reasoning without individual differences of cross-sectional studes.
  • Interviews took place at school/home, limiting stress.
  • Less negative than Piaget/Kohlberg
  • Longdituninal studies time consuming.
  • Qualatitve data is rich in detail but coding is a subjective process.
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