Jean Piaget and Lawrence Kohlberg

I think it is important to instill a sense of right or wrong in children from a biblical perspective because we must realize our children will be our future. They are going to be our future business men and women, politicians, teachers, presidents, etc. If we instill right and wrong into them they will be able to pass that same knowledge down to the generations after them and continue the cycle that we all learned from Christ. As the passage states “Parents were instructed to teach their children the law and God’s commandments” (Deut.6; Deut. 4:9, New International Version). Our parents taught us our biblical rules of wrong and right, which shaped us as humans in this world. Also as the passage states, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6, King James Version). At a young age, my parents taught my siblings and I the commandments and I feel this helped us make better judgements in adulthood. But I also feel the way they modeled and displayed their behaviors, manifested through our behaviors once we became adults.
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The two psychologists that I am going to compare and contrast are Jean Piaget and Lawrence Kohlberg. Piaget believed that a child’s cognitive structures and abilities developed first which would later determine their abilities to reason in social situations (Slavin & Schunk, 2018, p. 53). Piaget also proposed that over time, a person’s understandings of moral problems will evolve. Piaget broke his theory down into two sections: heteronomous morality and autonomous morality. Piaget’s first stage of moral development is heteronomous morality, which states children are faced with adults telling them what to do and not to do. In this stage, children will begin to judge their behavior on the consequences they receive. For example, if they behave in a bad manner, they will receive a negative consequence. If a child behaves in a positive manner they will be rewarded. In Piaget’s second stage of moral development, he labeled this as autonomous morality. Piaget stated, “It arises when a child’s social world expands to include more and more peers” (Slavin & Schunk, 2018, p. 54). In this stage, this is when children see other perspectives from their peers through interaction with more children. Piaget used the example of when children change the rules for a game that has been played a certain way. Before, a child may have thought that a game could only be play through one set of rules given by an authoritative figure. But through peer interaction, they see that it is okay to change or bend the rules.
Kohlberg’s theory is similar to Piaget’s in the sense he believed that the development began at a young age. However, Kohlberg’s theory was much more complex having six stages in three main levels. Lawrence Kohlberg proposed that people pass through six stages of moral development. Kohlberg’s six stages are broken down into three levels: Preconventional, Conventional, and Postconventional. In the Preconventional stage, “Rules are set down by others” (Slavin & Schunk, 2018, p. 55). In the first stage, “Children simply obey authority figures” (Slavin & Schunk, 2018, p. 55). Like with Piaget, children looked at adults as the authority (parents, teachers, police etc). In stage two, children’s needs and desires are important, however they are aware of other people’s interests. Stage three starts the Conventional level. In stage three, children are capable of understanding other people’s perspectives and can consider others feelings. Stage four is where there is an understanding that laws must be obeyed and it is forbidden to break them. This stage is where most adults fall into. Stage five begins the start of the postconventional level (Slavin & Schunk, 2018, pp. 54-56). At this stage, it is stated that “Laws are seen as necessary to preserve the social order and to ensure the basic rights of life and liberty” (Slavin & Schunk, 2018, p. 56). Finally, in stage six, Kohlberg stated that “Justice is above the law” (Slavin & Schunk, 2018, p. 56). He also later believed stages five and six should have been combined.
Although Piaget and Kohlberg’s theories had the similarities of children understanding right and wrong at a young age, looking at adult figures as authority and showing the progression through age, it also had differences of how fast this progression happened. Piaget’s theory was more age based whereas Kohlberg’s theory gradually happened over time. The way that their views compare to biblical work is that it shows how you must train a child at a young right and wrong in order for them to become an outstanding adult.

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