MORAL DEVELOPMENT THEORY
Moral Development Theory refers generally to theories of individual psychology
that investigate how moral reasoning emerges and develops as the individual matures.
Moral development theories should be distinguished from ordinary developmental
theories in criminology. Moral development theories are most often regarded as
"eclectic" theories in the field of criminology.
We develop the ability to assess what is right or wrong, acceptable or
unacceptable. In other words; we develop morality, a system of learned attitudes about
social practices, institutions, and individual behavior used to evaluate situations and
behavior as good or bad, right or wrong (Lefton, 2000). One theorist, Carol Gilligan,
found that morality develops by looking at much more than justice.
Moral Development Study in the 21st Century: Introduction to Moral Motivation
through the Life Span: Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, volume 51 - Carolyn P. Edwards,
University of Nebraska - Lincoln
Gustavo Carlo, University of Nebraska-Lincoln - From Moral Motivation through the Life
Span: Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, volume 51, pp. ix-xxvi. Copyright © 2005 by the
University of Nebraska Press. Used by permission.
ABSTRACT: Questions of right and wrong, good and bad, lawful and unlawful, have been
debated by philosophers, theologians, scholars, and ordinary people since ancient times.
The moral domain represents humanitys answers to three questions: What is the right
thing to do? How is the best state of affairs achieved? What qualities make for a good
person? However, the scientific investigation of the moral life has a much shorter
intellectual history than does philosophical and religious reflection; nevertheless, it is
not new. Moral development theory and research emerged as a critical topic over 100 years
ago, at the beginning of the 20th century. Thus, given this deep background, it may
surprise readers to learn that this is the very first time that the Nebraska Symposium on
Motivation has served as a forum to reflect on what we know about moral development and
motivation and to integrate theory and research with practical implications for schools,
communities, and childrearing. This book presents the products of the 51st Nebraska
Symposium on Motivation: Moral Development through the Life Span: Theory, Research,
and Applications. The symposium was held in Lincoln, Nebraska, in April 2003.
Interest in moral development and motivation has been prominent in the field of
psychology since Sigmund Freuds theory about the Oedipus complex and the formation
of the superego. Indeed, during certain earlier decades, especially the 1970s and 1980s,
moral development was a hot and contentious topic among social and behavioral scientists.
Various proponents of behavioral versus structural theories, such as Lawrence Kohlberg and
Jacob Gewirtz, enjoyed squaring off in public and professional debates. Some important
books, such as Lickona (1976), Kurtines and Gewirtz (1984), and Eisenberg, Reykowski, and
Staub (1989), grew out of those debates, and, even today, these sources are useful for
reading clear statements of the alternative theoretical perspectives, which are presented
as competing approaches to the study and interpretation of moral development. However,
following that lively but contentious period, the 1990s represented a quieter time of
solid and steady gains in research study of moral development and prosocial behavior as
well as a period of serious attempts at theoretical reconciliation and bridge building.
This volume presents some of the most significant fruits of that labor by distinguished
and well-known researchers in the field. It is intended to summarize what we now know
about moral motivation theory, research, and application across the life span. Although
not all major theoretical or empirical traditions are covered here, the authors represent
diverse theoretical orientations and methodologies that address many of the important
issues in moral motivation. Various themes run throughout the chapters, and each chapter
summarizes work that adds to our existing knowledge regarding moral development.
Moral Development Theory and Its Practical Application: Moral Education in the
American Public School System
Author OLMSTEAD, GWENDOLYN TOROK
Degree MEd, University of Cincinnati, Education : Educational Foundations, 2001.
Advisor Dr. Suzanne Soled
Abstract This thesis analyzes the major theories of moral development and how they apply
to public schooling in America. The importance of morality among children is discussed as
an eminent need. Social Learning, Psychoanalytical, and Cognitive Developmental theories
are discussed. Because it is contrary to the purpose of studying morality to have so many
theories, an integrated theory is described. The practical application of this theory for
American public schools is presented in the format of a presentation. This presentation is
intended to be a professional development seminar for educators. Many examples of
implementation are given, both school-wide and classroom specific, which reach across