Piaget’s Theory of Moral Development in English

Piaget’s Theory of Moral Development: The theory consists of two stages: heteronomous morality and autonomous morality. Heteronomous morality is characterized by a child’s view of rules as unchangeable and imposed by authorities. In contrast, autonomous morality is characterized by a child’s understanding that people create rules and can be changed. Children in the autonomous morality stage also understand that intentions matter when it comes to breaking the rules. The theory of Piaget has been used in many areas of education, and it allows teachers to adapt their teaching strategies to the requirements of their pupils.

Introduction

Jean Piaget, a cognitive psychologist, described phases of moral development in which a child follows rules and makes judgments. Piaget was primarily concerned with three facets of young children’s moral development: norms, moral accountability, and fairness. 

The phases of cognitive development are correlated with the ages at which children comprehend rules. In his 1932 book The Moral Judgment of the Child, Piaget developed the cognitive theory of moral development. His view of moral growth in children is an extension of his beliefs about cognitive development.

The term “moral” refers to manners, customs, and folkways. The development of moral principles and behavior is referred to as moral development. Moral behaviour is a socially desired behaviour. Moral conceptions emerge when a youngster learns what is good and terrible, what is right and what is wrong. Jean Piaget, a cognitive psychologist, used the interview method to find out the various stages of the moral development of the child. Piaget identified different stages of moral development that children go through as they grow up. 

These stages are based on children’s understanding and adherence to rules, their ability to take responsibility for their actions, and their perception of justice. Piaget’s theory suggests that children’s understanding of rules and moral issues is closely related to their cognitive development.

Piaget’s Moral Development Stages

Piaget’s cognitive theory of moral development is based on his ideas on cognitive development. He presented it in The Moral Judgment of the Child in 1932. Piaget’s theory primarily focused on cognitive development and understanding how children think, so while his stages of moral development provide insights, more recent theories, like Kohlberg’s, have expanded on Piaget’s work.

According to Piaget, Moral Growth happens in two stages:

  1. Heteronomous morality (moral realism): Children in this stage view rules as unchangeable and imposed by authorities. They believe that breaking the rules leads to punishment, regardless of the intentions behind the action. Children in this stage are typically under the age of 10.
  2. Autonomous morality (moral relativism): Children in this stage understand that people create rules and can be changed. They also understand that intentions matter when it comes to breaking rules. Children in this stage are typically over the age of 10.

At the age of 12, when children enter the formal operational stage, they begin to comprehend the rules and regulations. As a result, they develop an affinity for the rules and strive to obey them. They also want their peers to follow suit.

Heteronomous Morality (Moral Realism)

Children between the ages of 5 and 10 often go through the period of heteronomous morality, also known as moral realism or other-directed a. Children in this stage view rules as unchangeable and imposed by authorities. They believe that breaking the rules leads to punishment, regardless of the intentions behind the action. 

  • Children in this stage view rules as unchangeable and imposed by authorities.
  • They believe that breaking the rules leads to punishment, regardless of the intentions behind the action.
  • Children in this stage are typically under the age of 10.
  • They recognize that all laws are the product of some sort of authority (such as parents, teachers, or God) and that disobeying the law will result in swift and harsh retribution (immanent justice).
  • Piaget referred to the morality mentioned above as heteronomous morality. This is a morality that develops from abiding by someone else’s laws. Of course, these are the regulations that adults impose on young children. Thus, it is a morality derived from unidirectional respect. Specifically, it refers to the deference kids should show their parents, teachers, and other adults.

Here are some examples of heteronomous morality in children:

  • A child who doesn’t steal a toy from a store because they are afraid of getting caught and punished by their parents or the police.
  • A child who doesn’t cheat on a test because they are afraid of getting caught and punished by their teacher.
  • A child who doesn’t hit their sibling because they are afraid of getting punished by their parents.

Autonomous Morality (Moral Relativism)

Children in the stage of autonomous morality understand that people create rules and can be changed. They also understand that intentions matter when it comes to breaking the rules. Children in this stage are typically over the age of 10. By the age of 12, when the child is in the formal operational stage, they start to comprehend the rules. A love of the rules accompanies this awareness. They begin to follow them and encourage other kids to do the same.

  • Children in this stage understand that people create rules and can be changed.
  • They also understand that intentions matter when it comes to breaking the rules.
  • Children in this stage are typically over the age of 10.
  • At the formal operational stage, which begins at age 12, children begin to understand rules.
  • With this comprehension comes admiration for the rules. They begin to follow them and encourage other kids to do the same.
  • Overall, according to Piaget, the morality of the older kid is an independent morality, meaning that its laws bind it. The transition is attributed in part to the child’s overall cognitive growth, in part to falling egocentrism, and in part to the peer group’s increasing prominence.

Here are some examples of autonomous morality in children:

  • A child who doesn’t steal a toy from a store because they understand that it is wrong and would hurt the store owner.
  • A child who doesn’t cheat on a test because they understand that it is unfair to other students who studied hard.
  • A child who doesn’t hit their sibling because they understand that it is wrong and would hurt their sibling’s feelings.

Differences between Piaget’s and Kohlberg’s Theories

Jean Piaget’s theory of moral development and Lawrence Kohlberg’s moral development theory are both influential models that explain how individuals develop morally over time. However, they approach the topic from different perspectives and offer distinct stages of moral development. Here are the differences between the two theories:

  • Theorists and Focus: Jean Piaget was a cognitive psychologist who integrated moral development within his broader theory of cognitive development. He emphasized how children’s thinking patterns evolve. Lawrence Kohlberg, who was influenced by Piaget, focused on moral development in particular, examining how people advance through stages of moral reasoning.
  • Nature of Development: Piaget’s theory primarily focused on cognitive development and understanding how children think, so while his stages of moral development provide insights, more recent theories, like Kohlberg’s, have expanded on Piaget’s work.
  • Number of Stages: Piaget’s theory of moral development consists of two stages, while Kohlberg’s theory consists of six stages.
  • Age Range: Piaget’s theory is focused on children, while Kohlberg’s theory is focused on individuals from childhood to adulthood.

Piaget examined how a child’s worldview shapes morality and decisions. Kohlberg explored how children perceive moral concepts, but some argue his stages outline cognitive development.

Some ways to encourage children to develop autonomous morality

The most important to encourage children to develop autonomous morality is the rule comprehension in children. Piaget discovered that children’s views on moral standards, punishment, and regulations had a tendency to evolve as they grew older. In other words, moral growth in children goes through universal phases, just like cognitive development does.

Children now recognize that laws do not originate from a mysterious, “divine-like” source. Rules are made by individuals and are subject to change; they are not carved into stone tablets. Older kids understand that following the “rules of the game” helps to assure fair play and prevent arguments.

In fact, sometimes they even get fairly enthralled with the subject and may, for instance, argue the off-side rule in sports or the rules of board games (such as chess, Monopoly, or cards) with the same zeal as a lawyer. They also understand that rules may be altered if everyone agrees and if the situation calls for it (for example, “You have one player less so we will give you a three goal start”).

Children now recognize that laws do not originate from a mysterious, “divine-like” source. Rules are made by individuals and are subject to change; they are not carved into stone tablets. Older kids understand that following the “rules of the game” helps to assure fair play and prevent arguments.

In fact, sometimes they even get fairly enthralled with the subject and may, for instance, argue the off-side rule in sports or the rules of board games (such as chess, Monopoly, or cards) with the same zeal as a lawyer. They also understand that rules may be altered if everyone agrees and if the situation calls for it (for example, “You have one player less so we will give you a three goal start”).

The intentions behind actions are taken into consideration by older children when it comes to questions of moral responsibility and blame. Children start to understand that they won’t always be penalized even if they act in ways that seem wrong but are actually done with good intentions. The focus of punishment now shifts from retaliation to reparation. Its main goal is to set things right again, not to punish the guilty.

In other words, punishment should be tailored to the crime, such as when a vandal is required to repair the damage (s) he has caused, in order to help the offender understand the harm (s) he has caused and, wherever possible, punishment should fit the crime.

Children who are older understand that justice is an imperfect system in real life. Sometimes those who commit crimes get away with them, while other times the innocent are treated harshly. Collective punishment is suitable for younger children. For instance, they would not object if a child’s transgressions were punished on behalf of the entire class. The older kids always believe that it is immoral to punish the innocent for the wrongdoings of the wicked.

Piaget characterizes the morality of the older child as, in general, an independent morality, or a morality that is bound by its own laws. The transition is attributed in part to the child’s overall cognitive growth, in part to the child’s falling egocentrism, and in part to the peer group’s increasing prominence.

Criticisms of Piaget’s Theory of Moral Development

There are some criticisms of Piaget’s theory of moral development. Some researchers argue that Piaget’s theory is too focused on cognitive development and does not take into account the social and cultural factors that influence moral development. Additionally, some researchers argue that Piaget’s theory is too focused on individual development and does not take into account the role of social interactions in moral development.

Application of Piaget’s Theory in Education

Piaget’s contributions to educational policy and teaching practice have been significant. For instance, the UK government’s review of primary education in 1966 relied heavily on Piaget’s theory. The Plowden Report was published in 1967 following a review that included three Piaget-related recommendations:-

  • Individual attention is crucial for children, recognizing their unique needs.
  • It is only appropriate to teach children topics they are capable of learning.
  • Children should be encouraged to make their own discoveries.

Piaget’s theory has been applied across education. However, it still allows for flexibility in teaching methods, enabling teachers to adapt their lessons to meet the unique needs of their students.

Conclusion

Jean Piaget’s theory of moral development is an application of his ideas on cognitive development. Piaget’s theory primarily focused on cognitive development and understanding how children think, so while his stages of moral development provide insights, more recent theories, like Kohlberg’s, have expanded on Piaget’s work. Piaget’s theory has been implemented across education, and it provides flexibility in teaching approaches, allowing teachers to adjust classes to their students’ requirements.

Piaget characterizes the morality of the older child as, in general, an independent morality, that is, a morality that is subject to its rules. The transition is attributed in part to the child’s overall cognitive growth, in part to falling egocentrism, and in part to the peer group’s increasing prominence.

Share this post with your friends
Facebook
WhatsApp
Telegram
X
Pinterest

Related Posts

Leave a Comment

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Sarkari Diary WhatsApp Channel

Recent Posts

error: