This paper is written to examine various influences on the moral development of young children. Specifically, the paper will speak to the definition of moral development, the views held by educators Piaget and Kohlberg on this area of development in young children and the application of moral development theories by Early Childhood Educators. Theories posited by Sigmund Freud with regards to the psychological development of children in the early childhood arena will be discussed as well. Suggestions for parents on supporting the moral development of their children will also be addressed.
Moral Development is defined as “changes in thoughts, feelings and behaviors regarding standards of right and wrong” (Santrock, 2010). Moral development can further be described as learning what is and is not acceptable within the limits of “polite” society, and is an arguably elastic notion, with differences in culture (Pekarsky, 1998), religion, geography etc. somewhat complicating and expanding the definition. The theories of Sigmund Freud regarding the id, ego and superego are important here, because each of these factors defines an area of moral development.
The id is that which we cannot control. It is subconscious activity in the brain that operates solely on the pursuit of pleasure, and immediate gratification. The id is that part of the human psyche personified in Roald Dahl’s character Veruka Salt of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Dahl, 1964). She doesn’t care how, she wants it now, and according to Freud the id is responsible for this uncontrolled urge to satisfy all needs immediately.
The second part of Freud’s triumvirate of psychological components is the superego. As a child develops and learns what is expected of him by not only his family but society as a whole, his personality is imbued with observed and assimilated social mores and constraints. His personality is affected by the rules that he observes being followed in society and the superego is formed as a sort of “Jiminy Cricket” or conscience to help him determine what is right and wrong based on these observations.
Third is the ego. The ego is the mediator. In the ego is hopefully found a balance of what one wants to do with what one ought to do. Without full development of all three facets of personality as theorized by Sigmund Freud, appropriate and moderate behavior cannot be achieved. The ego is different from the other two facets in that it is a subconscious and conscious operator, as well as a preconscious operator. This means that the ego is always in place, whether or not the person on whom the ego is acting is aware (Goldwater, 2010).
As stages in psychological development have been defined by Freud, stages in moral development have been outlined by early educators Jean Piaget and Kohlberg, who put forth differing views on the moral development of children. Piaget theorized that children process morals in stages, first one then the next, with a transition in between....