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Case study analysis of Piaget's theory of moral development

Piaget studies moral development too and believed that it nicely tied in with overall cognitive development. He distinguished three stages:

1. Premoral period: No concern or awareness of or for rules.

2. Heteronomous morality: Strict adherence to rules and duties. Obedience to authority.

3. Autonomous morality: Rules are agreements and can be considered critically. Rules can be selectively applied depending on intention or mutual agreement.

Piaget would give two stories:

1. Once there was a little boy called David. One day when his mother was out he tried to get some sweets from the cupboard. He climbed on a chair and stretched out his arm. But the sweets were too high and he couldn't reach, and while he was trying to reach it he knocked over a cup and it fell and broke.

2. Once there was a little boy called John. He was in his room and his mother called him to dinner. He opens the door to the dining room but behind the door there is a tray with twelve cups on it. John couldn't have known that the tray was behind the door. He opened the door, knocked the tray, and all six cups smashed on the floor.

And ask the question: "which boy was naughtier, David or John?"

What answer would get the characterized as heteronomous? Why?

What answer would get the characterized as autonomous? Why?

Solution Preview

In response to the question of which boy was naughtier, one could argue that David was most certainly the naughtier of the two boys. He deliberately waited until his mother was out of the house to attempt to gain access to the sweets. This implies that he knew he was not supposed to be accessing them and the fact that his mother was out reduced the chances of getting caught. Secondly, the sweets were obviously deliberately placed out of reach so he would not be able to easily access them.

John, on the other hand, was simply responding to his mother's summons to come to dinner and the cups that he broke were merely an unfortunate accident. The paradox is that because of the greater number of broken cups combined with the ...

Solution Summary

This solution provides an analysis of two case studies using Piaget's three stages of moral development. These are:
1. Premoral period
2. Heteronomous morality
3. Autonomous morality