Piaget stated that he believed some primitive peoples never achieve the final stage of formal operations, reflecting his Eurocentric bias — and his bias in prioritizing abstraction over concrete reasoning as a theorist. Lawrence Kohlberg has been accused of a similar bias in his conceptualization of moral development. According to Kohlberg, children proceed through a series of six stages in which they first obey out of a fear of punishment, then out of devotion to rules, and only later do they formulate higher ethical principles. In Kohlbergs analysis, at the highest moral level of development, “laws are evaluated in terms of their coherence with basic principles of fairness rather than upheld simply on the basis of their place within an existing social order. Thus, there is an understanding that elements of morality such as regard for life and human welfare transcend particular cultures and societies and are to be upheld irrespective of other conventions or normative obligations” (Nucci 2008).
Like Piaget, Kohlberg placed a strong emphasis on abstraction as a higher form of processing information.
The feminist theorist Carol Gillian has taken Kohlberg to task for this, suggesting that women more frequently fail his test of reaching the highest levels of moral development because his theory shows an innate male bias. Gillians theory also reflects a great deal of Freudian emphasis upon the mother-child relationship, stating that a higher-order, more abstract concept of moral justice “was more prevalent among boys because their attachment relations with the mother, and subsequent masculine identity formation entailed that boys separate from that relationship and individuate from the mother. For boys, this separation also heightens their awareness of the difference in power relations between themselves and the adult, and hence engenders an intense set of concerns over inequalities” (Nucci 2008).
Nucci, Larry. (2008). Moral development and moral education: An overview. Studies in social and moral development and education. Retrieved October 22, 2010 at http://tigger.uic.edu/~lnucci/MoralEd/overview.html
Stages of intellectual development in children and teenagers. (2004). Child development
Institute. Retrieved October 22, 2010 at http://www.childdevelopmentinfo.com/development/piaget.shtml.