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A Brief History of Moral Development Theories

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series

As an avid reader of philosophy, I have often thought about the great ancient philosophers as well as some of the more modern philosophers’ discourse on ethical topics and their theories on what exactly constitutes “the good” or “virtue” and what impact it has on human behavior. If we take a broader look at the nearly four millennia of documented global history, we have undergone asynchronous periods of civilizations in disparate economic and political periods. We have also gone through cyclical political histories that were driven by a number of factors including economics, scarcity of resources and exploitative actions & atrocities therein. But one thing that served to mediate totalitarianism and various crimes against humanity was the practical treatment and balance of morality and ethics within the population.

However, since the periods of European and American Enlightenments during the late 1700s and early 1800s, we have been moving towards the decline of religions and thus religious ethics. Although 3 major religions (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism) continue to dominate globally, it is theorized that all religions, in the absence of more tangible, empirical evidence together with the decline of religious education and participation, will eventually succumb to mythic status.

However, without religion, questions surrounding the “purpose of humanity” comes to the forefront as, without considering the altruistic common ethics and “morality” of religion, we are again confronted with the atheistic premise of the lack of reason for being.

When we consider whether morality is fundamental to our purpose and/or survival, we need to consider the attributes of what morality is.

  • What is the nature of morality? 
  • How do we know what is right vs wrong?
  • Outside of a religious context, can man behave “morally”?

A rather age-old question arises as to whether humans are inherently immoral or moral beings. If we maintain that humans are fundamentally immoral and thus require extrinsic cognitive moral regulation, then without a religion or a secular ethical substitute in the form of secular ethical law, will we, succumb to our own self-improvement, self-interests and eventually subject ourselves to what can be referred to as “secular unity” or “secular redundancy”. The effects of such unregulated immorality would be the reduction of bio-diversity through unethical eugenic practices and the continuance of exploitative practices around the globe.

Conversely, if we are, as Karl Marx asserts, fundamentally moral and cooperative beings Wolff, Jonathan, (2015), then the introduction of secular ethical laws and ethical education would coincide with our natural propensities and serve to formalize man’s intrinsic nature.

In any case, we need to address these matters sooner rather than later as we are coming to a revolution that is resulting in a disparity between potentially exploitative technologies and a declining education base. This concept is commonly referred to as “secularization” and postulates that although society is advancing technologically, we are declining ethically due to the decline of religious ethics in practice and the absence of any robust alternative secular ethical laws, principles and education. The eventual progression of civilizations without moral developmental drivers could digress such civilizations into states of anarchy, eugenics (as we witnessed in part during the early part of the 20th century), and possible full annihilation. This is why moral development and ethical education is critical to the sustenance of humanity.

However, there appears to be an implied distinction between what constitutes a moral belief versus moral judgment as well as that of moral behavior. We can define a moral belief as that which is ascertained to be truth in the individual when acting in consonance with a benefit that serves the needs of others. A moral judgment is that which, when presented to the individual due to either intrinsic or extrinsic circumstances in cognitive contradiction, requires the individual to reconcile a moral judgment to a moral belief. Lastly, a moral behavior is a function of a moral belief in that a behavior is an extrinsic action.

Psychology has only been formally documented since 1880 but moralistic philosophy abounded many centuries prior to psychology and thus form the underpinnings of moral developmental theories of later as well as modern day psychologists. This paper primarily focuses on the history of moral beliefs and moral judgement from morality’s origins in philosophy and then on through moral development theories in psychology.

The Origins of Moral Philosophy and Thought:

The Ancients:

Morality or moral development in formal discourse can be traced back to the time of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle ca. 2500 B.C… Plato, (Trans. 2013) Plato, wrote within dialogues with Socrates on his concept of “the good” or “virtue”. Socrates would often ask his students in “The Republic”, “what is virtue?”; however, what is interesting is that Socrates never really completed a definitive description of “the good” and he also thought that “as far as moral education is concerned, it is important that the educator does not ‘carry rational knowledge into [children] but rather extracts it from them Giesinger, J. (2012)


It was Aristotle however, who was the first to develop a formalized ethical treatise in his “Nicomachean Ethics” that included an extended treatment on the topic of morality Aristotle (Trans, 2001). For Aristotle, morality is but one type of the concept of “virtue” and constitutes a balancing of man’s reason versus his pleasures. Morality in this case is an exercise in mediation as opposed to the extremes of passion or the Socratic “appetites”. For Aristotle, the whole of the human being and what was thought of as the soul should work in joint efforts at mediation towards the optimal outcomes. What is interesting about the Aristotelian views on morality and moral belief, is that no explicit mention is made to discuss morality as a function of or as a correlate to an altruistic benefit for others. Aristotle’s view on morality was an individual, intrinsic concept that exists solely when the individual achieves internal cognitive reconciliation or consonance between their pleasures and their reason.

Religious Morality:

When we speak of moral developmental theories, we have to at least touch upon the influence of religious moral thought into our discussion as it comprised a large component of Christian philosophical thought until the periods of the European and American Enlightenment periods during the 1700s. Religious morality also represents a difference from the more secular morality that emerged during the Enlightenment. Western religion (i.e., Christianity and Judaism), consider morality as not limited to thought but also a function of inner feeling. Per Peter, K.E. (1999), according to St. Thomas of Aquinas, Christianity asserts “It is not only what one does but also what one feels that matters. Not only “Do not kill”, but also “Do not hate”; not only “Do not commit adultery”, but also “Do not lust”.

Eastern Religious take a somewhat different view on morality in that Hinduism as well as Buddhism, ascribe morality as a function of behavior and not subject to a Deity’s law. Thus, one must act thoughtfully or morally and this will yield moral speech and thus propagate moral behavior.

The Enlightenment (Kant, Rousseau and Hegel):

The period of the European Enlightenment consisted of a revolution in both religion, philosophy and government into fruition during the period from 1770 to 1820. Full coverage of this period’s philosophical doctrine is well beyond the scope of the content here but with respects to thinking on Morality and Moral Development, one would be remiss not to mention the influence of philosophers Immanuel Kant, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Georg Wilhelm Hegel. The emergence of independent cognitive spheres of morality play a prominent role in philosophical thinking during this period as well as for subsequent periods in psychology and its foundations within psychodynamics.

Immanuel Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” cites 2 “spherical selves” that exist in all humans and serve to govern their moral intelligence. The “neumenal self” cannot be influenced by aspects of education as it exists in adherence to a deterministic nature. The neumenal self is subject only to nature and not nurture or training. Kant refers to the 2nd self as the “empirical self” and this spherical self is subject to education moral intelligence to the extent that, like Socrates advocated, morality must be wrought from the students by questioning rather than by didactic teaching; Kant thus, believed that morality exists within each student and must be brought forth into the extrinsic world by the teacher. (Huttunen, R., (2012)

Jean-Jacques Rousseau thought that morality is part of secular deterministic nature and that we must focus our education efforts to align with nature and determinism. (Huttunen, R., (2012))

Georg Wilhelm Fredric Hegel wrote in his “Phenomenology of the Right”, that morality is determined based upon 3 spheres of the human spirit (Huttunen, R., (2012). Hegel wrote that “Family” represented the primary and first sphere and governs the protection and progression of one’s family and overrules other influences and spheres. The 2nd sphere is the sphere of “Civil Society” and it advocates more materialistic objectives such as the accumulation of wealth and property. The 3rd and final sphere is the sphere of “Law” and it mediates the moral objectives between the other 2 spheres and suggests an intrinsic, inherent primacy of moral adherence to community and thus, communal objectives and property. Another important concept with Hegel’s theory of morality is the concept of “distribution”. Hegel’s philosophy of morality is based upon the premise that, as long as property is made equally available to all, then it is deemed appropriate. This important distinction was where Hegel’s morality differs from the latter Marxist views of morality. Hegel’s morality was thus, not only in line with the ancient utopian communal designs proposed by Socrates but also likely laid the foundation, albeit notwithstanding the “distribution” concept, for the later Marxist/Communist ideologies as well as Sigmund Freud’s tripartite cognitive spheres of psychoanalysis (the id, the ego and the super-ego).

A Brief History of Marxist Morality:

(Huttunen, R., (2012) also asserted that Karl Marx, in his critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, claims that “Hegel’s solution to the class contradiction of civil society is fictional. State does not resolve conflicts of civil society (which are, according to Marx, more related to distribution than recognition)”. Marx posited that morality is a function of exploitation of the few who own large quantities of property versus the laboring class. Marx also believed, unlike many precedent philosophers, that man can live in a mutually beneficial society and thus, he did not believe that man is fundamentally immoral and has an inherent propensity to exploit others for gain. Any such exploitation, he theorized, was the result of the disparity of wealth due to the inherent flaws in a free market economy. This theory he supported, with the evidence of many past civilizations living in communal cooperation until intrinsic and extrinsic elements caused disruptions in resources. Immorality, thus, is not inherent in man’s nature but must therefore be caused by factors extrinsic to man’s nature according to Marx. This represents a large shift from prior philosophical thought on morality, many of which asserted that man is either inherently immoral or else that morality is a function of some intrinsic or pre-deterministic influence.

Horace Mann, Benjamin Franklin, John Dewey: Character Education versus Moral Deliberation

Character Education is a term that was used by Benjamin Franklin, and later by famed secular educator Horace Mann as well as his contemporaries in the 19th century to describe the compensating moral education reform efforts needed within the growing secular public school systems within the United States. Mann in particular, was concerned that the absence of religious education and thus the shift away from religious morality would need a didactic, compensatory educational approach to build student “character” and moral reasoning.

However, towards the end of the 19th century and through the first half of the 20th century, the famed education pioneer and philosopher John Dewey disagreed with Mann and asserted that the didactic attempts by educators to teach character education as in the case of Kohlberg advocates, did not truly affect the teaching of morality. Dewey theorized that teachers needed to 1.) understand that children need to undergo an intrinsic process to “morally deliberate” or morally reflect on given situations in order to develop an internal basis for their moral reasoning systems and 2.) integrate the concepts of such moral deliberation into all academic subjects being taught Liu, X., (2014).

Psychological Morality Theory Emerges: (Piaget and Kohlberg)

In philosophy, we saw a shift from the time of the ancient Greeks through the 19th century from an individual treatment of moral value to a more social treatment of the drivers and effects of morality via Hegel and Marx. During the rise of psychology in the later part of the 19th century and beyond we again see a shift back to the individual.

Jean Piaget, considered the founder of Developmental Psychology, performed and documented considerable work in the quest to develop a comprehensive staged theory of moral development. His work, primarily with children led him to develop a two staged theory consisting of:

Moral Realism vs. Moral Relativism

The greatest contributor to developmental psychology Jean Piaget, was perhaps the first to posit psychological theories related to morality and moral development in children. Piaget theorized that children, under normal developmental circumstances, move from an initial stage he defined as “moral realism” to a second stage he called “moral relativism”. While in the stage of moral realism, children before the age of ten adhere to a rigid, subjective and punitive view of what is “right” versus what is “wrong” as defined by an authoritative adult figure (typically their parent/s). A child in this stage does not judge what is moral but rather accepts in totality moral behavior and the implications of non-compliance with such behavior as has been defined by a close adult figure. Piaget, J. (1990), asserted that children in the moral realistic stage are really not at an absolute moralistic stage in that their understanding of “right” versus “wrong” is merely a set of hardcore rules and rule systems that were communicated to them by an adult or adults and such rules are merely used by children within this stage as a comparative means to administer a quantitative value-based reward or punishment for a given behavior. Thus a child within the moral realistic stage will, for example, dole out a higher punishment for a child who breaks 15 dishes versus a child who breaks only 8. Piaget, J. (1990) summarizes this moral realistic and immature cognitive state with the statement that for students within this stage “It is the letter of the law that is more important than the intent”.

When a child progresses to the more advanced stage of moral relativism (usually sometime after reaching the age of 10), the child begins to formulate and use reason to intrinsically redefine for themselves what is “right” versus “wrong”. They look for guidance and input from their peers and thus, start to weigh the value of the behavior and the magnitude of its consequences when determining rewards or punishments as appropriate. Their view of morality thus, becomes an exercise in either cognitively weighing the “intent” of a given behavior rather than the extent of the resultant outcome/s. Piaget also noted an important point in that a child transitioning from the earlier stage of moral realism to moral relativism can exhibit both domains of reasoning at the same time. Both stages can exist but they cannot overlap with respects to one governing the child’s reasoning over the other. Thus, until a child fully adopts moral relativism, he/she may adhere to moral realistic reasoning under certain circumstances or when asked to evaluate the morality of certain limited behaviors. Hence, the moral stage transitioning process is a gradual one Pulaski, M.A.S., (1980).

Kohlberg and Moral Judgement:

In 1971, Lawrence Kohlberg expanded upon Piaget’s moral development theories and expanding morality into a 6 staged developmental theory primarily focused on moral judgement. Kohlberg’s theory posited that morality or moral intelligence, requires differentiation from logical reasoning; however, Kohlberg posited that moral intelligence while, separate and distinct from logical reasoning, it should be evaluated within individuals by considering an individual’s stage in logical development. Akin to Piaget, Kohlberg acknowledged that all individuals do not all reach the stage of formal operations (Piaget’s final developmental stage in his theory). As such, not all individuals are capable of reaching the same, consistent, “moral judgement” given the same circumstances. Çam, Z., Çavdar, D., Seydoogullari, S., Cok, F., (2012).

Per McLeod, S. A. (2013), Kohlberg’s 6 stages can really be grouped into 3 broader stages as indicated below:

Level 1 – Pre-conventional morality – Children within this stage have no real sense of their own reasoning with respects to moral values or judgements and thus adhere or advocate moral laws and principles handed down to them from their significant adult figures (i.e. their parents) This stage is comparable to Piaget’s stage of moral realism and it primarily pertains to children under the age of nine.

Level 2 – Conventional morality – Children within this stage as well as the majority of the adults, whom Kohlberg posited, never progress from this stage, adhere to moral values and advocate moral judgements to coincide with the approval of societal norms and individual approval of others.

Level 3 – Post-conventional morality – Kohlberg asserted that only between 10-15% of all adults achieve this moral developmental stage as it typically requires higher than average reasoning capabilities. People within this stage can reason within a higher order level as it requires internal and abstract reasoned evaluation of the value judgement of conventional moral standards and laws. People who achieve this stage can “go against the tide” and debate the weight or “value” of a moral law or standard and reason with the principles of “justice” or “virtue”.

McLeod, S. A. (2013) also asserts that Kohlberg differed somewhat further from Piaget in that Kohlberg’s stages are not as hard set and the moral decision-making performed by humans are dependent upon the specific nature of the situation; Humans thus, can essentially perform “inter-stage” moral reasoning which can blur the lines separating moral developmental stages. McLeod also mentioned the positions of another noteworthy psychologist (Carol Gilligan); Gilligan thought that the influence of sex differences further serve to differentiate moral values, judgement and behavior. According to Gilligan, the emotions of compassion and the enhanced care-giving behavior of females play a role in morality and moral development and this was largely ignored by both Piaget and Kohlberg.

Treatment of Moral Development Theories in the 21st Century

Biological Implications and a Psychological “Caveat” Explained:

Human behavior, to the extent that it lays within the domain of the field of psychology, is generally deemed to be constructive and as such, empirical observations of human behavior is impeded by pre-existing, pre-constructed cognition, perception and memory. To put it more plainly, no human behavior can be observed using a “clean slate” and thus, no empirical test can be used without factoring in pre-existing psychological constructs within a human or humans. Human cognition, cannot be de-constructed or erased for purposes of subsequent empirical psychological testing using new stimuli. This obstacle has long been psychological testing and treatment “caveat” as it restricts not only observation of human behavior but also requires a combination of psychological therapies to offer viable solutions to psychological issues and conditions.

The Emergence of Neuroscience and its potential impact to moral development theory and treatment.

Neuroscience, like any science facilitates both the empirical observation of and the potential for identification of agents of change; the implications of such, with respects to moral behavior, are potentially astounding and could represent a “ground-breaking” approach to the treatment of socio-pathology and borderline cognitive impairments that impact moral behavior in both adults and children. Psychologists have, for example, known for years that moral behavior and decision making capabilities in humans lay in the frontal cortex of the brain. Psychologists, physicians and other scientists and researchers have gleamed much information related to the biological indicators of moral behavior from patients who suffered brain damage to the frontal cortex or were born with defects within this region of the brain. Lesions, for example in the frontal cortex, play a significant impact to moral reasoning in humans (expand and provide citations). Neuroscience uses fMRI technology to evaluate biological changes to the brain’s zones and hemispheres when behaviors or cognitive stimuli are introduced to a patient. For perhaps the first time, we are able to look into the biological effects/reactions of reason and subsequent action in the brain. Kolb, B., Whishaw, I.Q. (2015)

Final Thoughts & Implications for Moral Educators:

So where does psychology go from here in the 21st century with respects to identifying and remediating moral development and moral education in humans? We have historically taken a long, historical, political, and most importantly, a reasoned path to provide theories of acceptable moral theory, as well remedial psychological treatments therein. We have evidence that collective & political morality does not begin and end with psychology but is greatly influenced by individual moral behavior. What has yet to be fully addressed however, is how to determine consistency with respects to what exactly constitutes acceptable moral behavior, how to evaluate moral development and behavior within individual humans and lastly, how to ensure that any treatments to remediate morality do not ethically violate individual bio-diversity and thus diverse thought within all humans.

The implications of neuroscience will thus fill a void in the field of educational psychology as neuroscience can better enable educators to differentiate between students who are not biologically hindered from receiving secular moral education and ethical training versus those diagnosed with biological issues impacting their frontal cortex or the moral center of the brain. It is well known that patients with injuries to the pre-frontal cortex of their brains experience inhibited capacity to reason from several options. This not only impacts their self-regulating behaviors but also obviously their decision making skills which are critical to moral judgment Kolb, B., Whishaw, I.Q. (2015). Neuroscientific tools such as functional magnetic resonance imaging will not only facilitate the early diagnosis and treatment of individuals who have defects, lesions and other damage to their pre-frontal cortex but such 21st century diagnostic techniques will also enable future educators to develop new socio-teaching strategies to address students with borderline cognitive moral disabilities. ()

Another path that needs to be addressed is targeting moral emotions as opposed to just moral reasoning within the task of administering moral education to students. Minkang, K. (2013) asserts thatmoral education programs that focus on building strengths and triggering the positive moral emotions may be more effective than the more traditional reasoning-oriented interventions”. Minkang K. concluded that moral reasoning education commonly known as Cognitive Developmental Theory that primarily drives the concepts of moral education should be taught with the realization that morality is represents a combination of moral intuitions, moral emotions as well as moral reasoning. Ms. Minkang’s argued that morality is a combination of factors that are neither the function of solely internalized, intrinsic cognition or the result of pre-deterministic, reductionist, biological factors but rather a combination of such. Minkang also cites neuroscience in support of her conclusions as “recent findings from neuroscientific studies indicate that in fully functional brains there is a strong link between emotion, action, and real-life moral decision-making”. She further noted that patients with brain damage to their frontal cortex exhibited difficulties when questioned or tested on moral issues.

The implications thus for moral development with respects to education is thus not resolved and will not be until humans do the following:

  • Determine consistent, secular ethical objectives
  • Build a more deterministic model for morality in conjunction with modern ethical philosophy and societal laws.
  • Use both traditional psychological reasoning and the new technologies of neuroscience to better evaluate empirically the biological “symptoms” of morally cognitive stimuli and the correlated effects of moral therapies.
  • Determine consistencies with respects to the Moral education implementation and enhancements and most importantly, moral advocacy within government is the key to effecting such social change on a national as well as on global level. Rosado (2016)

Annotated Bibliography

  • Aristotle, (Trans. 2001). The Basic Works. pp. 935-1126
    • This is a collection of the major philosophical works of Aristotle including the pivotal and indispensable first major work of ethics and moral thought “Nicomachean Ethics”.
  • Çam, Z., Çavdar, D., Seydoogullari, S., Cok, F., (2012), Classical and Contemporary Approaches for Moral Development, Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice – 12 (2) [Supplementary Special Issue] • Spring • pp. 1222-1225
    • This represents a theoretical article and the researcher/authors offers a comparison between differing theories of moral development. The article contrasts Piaget’s 2 stage moral realist/moral relativist stages of development theory with Kohlberg’s 6 stage theory on the same subject. The researchers in this case also included factors such as the difference between moral behavior versus moral judgment as well as the implications of gender on the development of subsequent theories as Social Domain Theory in the context of moral development. The article cites the various differences between such theories and suggests additional global cultural comparisons needed to determine, for example the influence of religious and cultural issues and the impact on moral development on males and females.
  • Huttunen, R., (2012). Hegelians Axel Honneth and Robert Williams on the Development of Human Morality. Stud Philosophical Education (2012) 31:339–355DOI 10.1007/s11217-011-9278-z
    • This paper presents an analysis of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s moral philosophy and a comparison to modern day advocates of his moralistic theories.
  • Giesinger, J. (2012). Kant’s Account of Moral Education. Educational Philosophy and Theory,Vol. 44, No. 7, 2012 doi: 10.1111/j.1469-5812.2011.00754.x
    • This paper presents an analysis of Immanuel Kant’s Moral and Educational Philosophy
  • Kretchmar, J. (2012), Moral Development.
    • This paper presents a comparison between the moral theories of Jean Piaget, Lawrence Kohlberg and Carol Gilligan.
  • Kim, Minkang (2013) “Cultivating Teachers’ Morality and the Pedagogy of Emotional Rationality,” Australian Journal of Teacher Education: Vol. 38: Iss. 1, Article 2. Retrieved from:
    • The author/researcher argues that teachers, acting as moral development agents for their students, experience difficulties in teaching ethical skills by using the conventional theories of Piaget and Kohlberg as such theories do not include the crucial role of emotion on the development of student thinking on rationality. The researchers concluded that better teacher training is needed with respects to incorporating traditional moral development and awareness theories with literature on ethics and philosophy. Teachers should also be better trained in emotional intelligence and empathy via the study of “real world” scenarios that target ethical decision making.
  • Lapsley, D., Carlo, G., (2014) Moral Development at the Crossroads: New Trends and Possible Futures. American Psychological Association, Developmental Psychology Vol. 50, No 1, pp. 1-7
    • This paper presents a review trends of moral development theory, paradigmatic moral stage development and the emergence of neuroscience, socio-biology and its implications for education.
  • Liu, X., (2014).The Problem of Character Education and Kohlberg’s Moral Education: Critique from Dewey’s Moral Deliberation
    • This article is an interesting comparison and contrast between Lawrence Kohlberg’s Moral Development theory versus John Dewey’s Moral Deliberation philosophy.
  • Kolb, B., Whishaw, I.Q. (2015). Fundamentals of Neuropsychology, Macmillan Ed. 7th Ed.
    • This textbook presents an introduction to the neuropsychology and its related fields of study in the areas of neuroanatomy, brain biology and neural network theory, brain architecture, language, communication and learning centers of the brain , neuropharmacology and functional magnetic resonance imaging technologies
  • Kreeft, P. (1990). Summa of the Summa: The Philosophy of St. Thomas of Aquinas
    • This work comprises an annotated summary of the Summa Theologica written by the St. Thomas of Aquinas in (). The Summa Theologica combines both a work of formal philosophical argument with Christian apologetics and thus formed the basis for latter theology and philosophical works. St. Thomas’ writings are essential for understanding the deductive logic method of religious doctrine and especially Christian morality which dominated a significant portion of philosophical thought prior to the enlightenment period of the 1700s.
  • Maddix, M. (2011). Unite the Pair so Long Disjoined: Justice and Empathy in Moral Development Theory. CEJ: Series 3, Vol. 8, No. 1
    • This paper compares the moral development theories of Jean Piaget with those of Lawrence Kohlberg. It also describes Martin Hoffman’s theory of empathy.
  • Wolff, Jonathan, (2015) “Karl Marx”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), retrieved from>.
    • This article is a summary of the works of Karl Marx including his thoughts on the drivers of morality. Marx believed that humans are fundamentally moral but are subject to immoral behavior due to disparities of resources, wealth and class.
  • Maxwell, B., Narvaez, D., (2013). Moral foundations theory and moral development and education. Journal of Moral Education, Vol. 42, No. 3, pp 271-282
    • This paper presents a review of moral foundations theory (MFT) and social intuitionist model (SIM) and its significance to future psychological practice. The researchers explained the differences between MFT and SIM versus Cognitive Development Theory. The conclusion of the researchers was that although neuroscience can and has successfully influenced and been integrated into education, more work is needed to implement such work to cover moral education in practice.
  • McLeod, S. A. (2013). Kohlberg. Retrieved from
    • This article presents good summary of Kohlberg’s Moral Development Theory and some of its defects.
  • Peter, K.E. (1999).Evolutionary and Religious Perspectives on Morality: REFLECTIONS ON THE EVOLUTION OF MORALITY. Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, Vol. 34, no. 3
    • This article is a brief summary of morality and its religious, biological and cultural influences.
  • Plato, (trans 2013), The Republic and Other Dialogues, Barnes & Noble Pub.
    • This work combines the essential dialogues of Plato featuring discourses between Socrates and his students. The dialogues presented within this text include discussions and debates between topics within metaphysics, politics & ethics. These dialogues (especially “The Republic”), are indispensable for research on the origins of ethics, logic, political science and the concept of the “ideal state”.
  • Piaget, J. (1997). The Moral Judgment of the Child.
    • One of his more famous popularly published books, Piaget’s “Moral Judgment of the Child” describes his 2 staged theories of moral development which includes moral realism and moral relativism. Piaget was a pioneer in the world developmental psychology and this text contributed to the foundation for later psychological theories of morality (i.e., Lawrence Kohlberg’s 6 stages of moral development).
  • Pulaski, M.A.S., (1980). Understanding Piaget. Harper & Row Pub.
    • This text presents a summary of Piaget’s major theories and fundamental themes. The author describes Piaget’s staged development theory as well as his 2 staged moral development theory as well as Piaget’s view of the obstacles and options for educational progression as both a pedagogical profession as well as its more progressive treatment as a behavioral science.

Other non-cited sources:

  • Reimer, J.. (1977). A Structural Theory of Moral Development. Theory into Practice, 16(2), 60–66. Retrieved from
  • Thompson, R.A., (2012). Whither the Pre-conventional Child? Toward a Life-Span Moral Development Theory. Child Development Perspectives © 2012 The Society for Research in Child Development DOI: 10.1111/j.1750-8606.2012.00245.x


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