Human morality has been an issue in philosophy since the days of Aristotle; the topic was first studied by psychologists in the early twentieth century. At this time, both Sigmund Freud and Piaget addressed the issue of children's moral development.
Freud proposed that children around four years of age assimilate the morals and standards of their same-sex parent, resulting in the onset of the child's superego, which is the storehouse for one's conscience. Thus, children have a rudimentary sense of right and wrong based on the morals of their parental figure. Since Freud's concept was based on his theory of psychosexual development, it was discredited by his European colleagues for most of his lifetime. Thus, his theory of moral acquisition has not generally been the basis of research on the development of morality.
Piaget began observing children when he was giving intelligence tests in the laboratory of Alfred Binet. He observed that children do not reason in the same way that adults do. Thus, by questioning Swiss schoolchildren about their rules in a game of marbles, Piaget adapted his theory of cognitive development to moral development. Lawrence Kohlberg elaborated on Piaget's theory by studying children's, as well as adults', reasoning concerning moral dilemmas. Kohlberg is still generally considered the leading theorist of moral development.
Was this article helpful?