Sociology Index


Moral Development Theory refers generally to theories of individual psychology that investigate how moral reasoning emerges and develops as the individual matures. Moral development theory should be distinguished from ordinary developmental theories in criminology. Moral development theories are most often regarded as "eclectic" theories in the fields of crime and criminology, and  critical criminology. Moral development theory and research emerged as a critical topic over 100 years ago, at the beginning of the 20th century.

Piaget recognized that cognitive development is closely tied to moral development and was particularly interested in the way children's thoughts about morality changed over time. Nebraska Symposium on Motivation has served as a forum to reflect on what we know about moral development theory and motivation and to integrate theory and research with practical implications for school, community, and childrearing.

According to Piaget, once ideal reciprocity has been reached moral development has been completed. Although Piaget pioneered our initial understanding of moral development, research has not always been able to confirm certain portions of his theory. Unlike Piaget's earlier theories, Kohlberg's theory of moral development has generally been supported by contemporary research. Interest in moral development theory and motivation has been prominent in the field of psychology since Sigmund Freud’s theory about the Oedipus complex and the formation of the superego. Indeed, during certain earlier decades, especially the 1970s and 1980s, moral development theory was a hot and contentious topic among social and behavioral scientists.

Some important books, such as Lickona (1976), Kurtines and Gewirtz (1984), and Eisenberg, Reykowski, and Staub (1989, 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 theory. However, following that lively but contentious period, the 1990s represented a quieter time of solid and steady gains in research study of moral development theory and prosocial behavior as well as a period of serious attempts at theoretical reconciliation and bridge building.

Moral Development Theory Abstracts

Moral Development Theory and Its Practical Application: Moral Education in the American Public School System - OLMSTEAD, GWENDOLYN TOROK, 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 Moral Development Theory for American public schools is presented in the format of a presentation.

Moral Development Theory Books

Moral Development Theory and Applications. By Elizabeth C. Vozzola. Highlights promising applications of moral development theory in education and counseling.

51st Nebraska Symposium on Motivation: “Moral Development Theory through the Life Span: Theory, Research, and Applications.”

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 - Gustavo Carlo, University of Nebraska-Lincoln - From Moral Motivation through the Life Span: Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, volume 51.