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Progress and Prospects in the Psychology of Moral Development

From: Merrill-Palmer Quarterly
Volume 50, Number 4, October 2004
pp. 546-557 | 10.1353/mpq.2004.0038


This commentary on the psychology of moral development provides a critical analysis of some important theoretical trends and empirical advances marking past progress and also discusses some future prospects for the field. The primary concern is that contemporary moral psychology suffers from a conceptual skew that is evidenced by a theoretical and empirical focus on moral cognition as applied to interpersonal problems and the consequent inattention to moral personality and other intrapsychic aspects of the domain. A priority for the field is to move beyond single-variable models to ones that specify a more coherent and comprehensive account of moral functioning. Among other things, such accounts should entail a realistic depiction of moral maturity, meaningfully incorporate character traits and virtues, identify early childhood precursors, and address the significance of religion and spirituality in moral functioning.

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