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Morality Wisdom & Life Span

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Essay title: Morality Wisdom & Life Span

Developmental Psychology

Chapter 7: Morality, Wisdom and the Life-span

Moral Development and Life-span Research:

-Longitudinal research: expensive, labor-intensive, takes a long time, research gets wrinkled and wither.

-Cross-sectional research: more suitable for research on moral development across the life span.

Definition of "Moral Maturity":

1. What is established in the early years remains more or less fixed throughout life; later experiences may expand this, but it is essentially a cumulative process: maturity is reflected in the range and depth of knowledge and skill the individual has acquired, and how effectively they are used.

2. Development across the life-span is through continual change and transformation; what we know or understand is integrated into successively more complex systems or stages. There is individual variation in the speed and extent of this progression. We expect adults to show more integrated and elaborated morality, but not all adults show equal levels of 'moral maturity'.

3. The life-span has specific 'phases' or 'developmental tasks': these are common to everyone, but they may be negotiated differentially by different individuals: 'maturity' is defined by how successfully the individual negotiates the sequence of life phases.

-Studies of children and adolescents tell us about the processes of moral development, studies of adults can tell us about three things:

(1) Later stages in progress towards moral complexity

(2) 'normal'; adult moral functioning;

(3) 'exceptional' and unusual 'moral maturity' or 'wisdom'.

Ways of Thinking about Moral Development:


Frankena (1973): Difference bet. deontic theories and aretaic theories.

Deontic Theories: focus on judgments of moral obligation e.g. what we ought to do? how shall we judge what is right? ...etc.

Aretaic Theories: focus on moral value e.g. the moral worth of persons, traits, motives and deeds, virtues and human qualities.

Social learning theory--> Aretaic model

Cognitive-developmental theory-->Deontic

*Different theoretical positions in psychology deem different aspects of morality to be important, and researchable.

*They differ in methods for studying moral development.

*They differ in the questions they ask about the processes of development.

*They differ about the antecedents of development --what variables should be investigated

, and what assumptions can be made about the effects of these variables.

*They differ in how they conceptualize life-span development.

Historical Perspective

Psychoanalytic theory:

-Classic Freudian theory-> tensions bet. Ego and Id. The superego, comprising the Ego-Idea and guilt, emerges as a consequences of resolving the Oedipal conflict; the child internalizes the parent (to become the Ego-Ideal) and redirected Id energy forms the source of guilt.

*This theory focuses on the aspects of the Ego's management of conflict with the superego, external pressures and internal defenses.

*The methods of study are largely clinical observation of the individual conflict and its resolution.

*The process of development are primarily the establishment of the Ego and the Superego.

*The significant antecedents are parental management of the child's conflicts, and the early parent-child relationship.

*The life-span model conceived of development in terms of a series of phases, each of which has key tasks; if individual fails to negotiate these tasks successfully, it leaves a residue of trauma which interferes with latter phases.

Social learning theory:

*Main aspects conditioned behavior and motivations which sustain habits. Some theorists ( Eysenck, 1976) argue

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