Values and moral development

  • David Fontana
Part of the Psychology for Professional Groups book series (PPG)


The discussion of attitudes in the last chapter leads on to the broader issue of morals and values. Morals and values are elusive concepts, and there is no single definition of them that satisfies everyone. Many psychologists find it helpful to divide morality into two related aspects proposed by the philosopher Fichte, one subjective (the individual’s inward observation of a personal code of behaviour) and one objective (the attitudes and behaviour generally prized by the cultural group to which the individual belongs). The latter aspect is the one more thoroughly researched by psychologists, particularly in the context of a child’s development of objective behaviour in general. The moral behaviour prized by one’s cultural group may or may not be defined by rules, and these rules may or may not carry the force of law, but this behaviour is nevertheless seen by responsible members of society as representing imperatives in matters of conduct and of interpersonal relationships. These imperatives may be derived from religious, philosophical, or political teachings, and usually they have had an important influence upon the historical development of the cultural group concerned, providing guidelines for the emergence of civilized practices and even (ostensibly) for dealings with other countries. Sometimes within a culture, subgroups become apparent which differ from each other in the morals and values held (e.g. religious groups, socio-economic status groups), and this can lead to friction and to attempts to put down opposing value systems by force.


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Additional reading

  1. Bandura, A. (1989) Human agency in social cognition. American Psychologist, 44, 1175–84. An excellent summary of the irifluences of sociol factors upon learnt human heluwiour.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Colby, A. and Kohlberg, L. (1987) The Measurement of Moral Judgement. New York: Cambridge University Press. An extensive compendium of approaches assessing and understanding moral heluwiour.Google Scholar
  3. Eisenberg, N. and Strayer, J. (1987) (Eds) Empathy and Its Development. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Excellent account of the development of sympathy, empathy and altruism.Google Scholar
  4. Kurtiner, W.M. and Gewirtz, J.L. (1991) Handbook of Moral Behavior and Development (3 vols.). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Perhaps the most comprehmsive text available, surveying the whole area of moral development and heluwiour.Google Scholar
  5. Lockwood, A. (1978) The effects of values clarification and moral development curricula on school-age subjects: a critical review of recent research. Review of Educational Research, 48, 325–64. A good survey of school programmes designed to enhance moral development.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. May, P.R. (1971) Moral Education in Schools. London: Methuen. Provides a good introduction to the practicalities of moral education in schools, as does the book by Wilson (1972) below.Google Scholar
  7. Modgil, S. and Modgil, C. (Eds) (1986) lAwrence Kohlherg: Consensus and controversy. London: Falmer Press. One of the last words on all aspects of Kohlberg’s work.Google Scholar
  8. Packer, M. (1985) The Structure of Moral Action: A Hermeneutic Study of Moral Conflict. Basel, Switzerland: Karger. As much philosophical as psychological, but a good examination of issues of definition and judgement.Google Scholar
  9. Purpel, D. and Ryan, K. (Eds) (1976) Moral Education … It comes With The Territory. Berkeley, CA: McCutchan. Also of value in a practical context.Google Scholar
  10. Wilson, J. (1972) Practical Methods of Moral Education. London: Heinemann.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Fontana 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Fontana
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.University of Wales College of CardiffUK
  2. 2.University of MinhoPortugal

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