Moral Development and Reasoning


Piaget Stages of Moral Development

Piaget (1932) believes cognitive abilities and structures are formed first and these then determine and develop our moral reasoning. This develops in predictable stages.

Heteronomous - fixed rules. no change depending on the situation.

1. Rules are permanent cannot be changed and must be followed. 

2. Children believe others view their rule following ideas in the same way.

3. Punishment depends on results of ones actions.

4. Misbehaviour will always be punished.

5. Inflexible rules are made by authorities.

Autonomous - flexible with rules and punishment.

1. It is okay to break rules sometimes in certain circumstances.

2. People view 'what is right' differently.

3. Punishment depends on the intentions and degree of behaviour.

4. Coincidental bad outcomes not seen as punishments for misbehaviour.

5. Intentions are more important that the results of ones behaviour.

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Kohlberg Theory of Moral Reasoning

Kohlbergh (1958) elaborated Piaget stages of moral reasoning.

He created 6 stages within three levels of moral reasoning.

Stage 1: Pre-conventional - up to 9years old.

A. Obedience and Punishment Orientation

  • Punishment is determined by goodness/badness

B. Instrumental Relativist Orientation

  • Right is satisfying ones needs and occasionally others

Moral code is shaped by others and the consequences of breaking or following their rules

Stage 2: Conventional - middle age school

A. Good-boy Good-girl Orientation

  • Good behaviour is whatever pleases others and is approved

B. Law and Order Orientation

  • Right is doing ones duty and pleasing others

Begin to internalize moral standards of adult role models

Stage 3: Post Conventional - young adulthood

A. Social Contract Orientation

  • Laws can be changed for the good of society

B. Universal Ethical Principle Orientation

  • What is good is defined by our own conscious

Moral reasoning is based on individual rights and justice

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Criticisms of Kohlberg's Work

Mostly involved boys and girls moral reasoning is different.

Behaviour influences our reasoning and this wasn't considered.

Can reason more sophisticatedly than the stages suggest.

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Peers influence on Moral Development

Similarities of peers (age, ability, social level, interests) facilitate negotiation, communication, co-operation, compettition and conflict. 

Friends have closer attachments than peers.

As you get older you reduce the number of friends but mix with a variety of ages and genders. 

Peers are believed to shape your:   (more influential than parents)

  • attitudes
  • personality
  • language
  • behaviour  - criticism of Kohlberg was that behaviour affects moral reasoning

Sociometric Status: Coie et al (1982)

Children are categorised and mixing these groups can cause disagreement.

Highly liked and lowly disliked = popular

Highly liked and highly disliked = controversial

Lowly liked and highly disliked = rejected (rejected category predicts long term behavioural problems)

Lowly liked and lowly disliked = neglected

Averagely liked and disliked = average

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