The approaches to moral development.

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Piaget's Approach to Moral Development

Moral Stories - One child broke one cup after trying to get some jam without his mother knowing (Henry), the other accidently broke 15 cups (John).

2 Stages of Moral Reasoning -

  • MORAL REALISM (aprox. 5-9 years) - Rules are seen as god given and fixed. Punishment is unavoidable. Focus is on consequences rather than intentions.
  • MORAL RELATIVISM (10 and over) - Rules can be changed with mutual consent. Punishment can also be avoided. Children can consider intentions rather than consequences.

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Pros and Cons of Piaget's theory


  • Piaget was the first to develop theory on Moral Development.
  • Considered the idea of stages.


  • Focuses on how children REASON rather than BEHAVE when confronted with a situation.
  • NELSONS STUDY - results show that children can consider intentions much earlier than piaget suggested.
  • His stories focused on consequences much more than intentions.
  • It was that henry who only broke one cup was being naughty.
  • used clinical assesment - children not always clear when trying to express themselves.
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Kohlbergs approach to moral development

Kohlberg used moral dillemmas to develop his theory: HEINZ.

Proposed 3 levels of morality each with 2 universal stages:

  • Pre conventional 1 - Rules are kept in order to avoid punishment 6-13 2 - 'right' bevahvoir is what brings rewards
  • Conventional 1 - 'Good' behaviour pleases others 13-16 2 - obeying laws is important
  • Post conventional 1 - 'Right' is what is democratically agreed up 16 onwards 2-Moral action is based on self chosen principles
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Pros and cons of Kohlberg's approach


  • Developed Piaget's theory
  • Tied stages to ages more than Piaget did.
  • EVIDENCE - kohlbergs study.


  • Dilemmas criticised for being too hypothetical - unable to relate to them - don't face these situations in real life.
  • The dilemmas may have been too complicated for children to understand
  • Gilligan criticised Kohlberg for being biased towards males
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