The Moral Judgment of the Child
Author: Jean Piaget
Length: 418 pages
About: This gem of a book explores morality from rule understanding to judgment and punishment through the view of the legendary Jean Piaget. He described the concepts of rules as first being motor habits, to having an egocentric understanding of rules (i.e. two children playing together but with separate sets of rules, in turn allowing for two winners), and then to view rules as sacred, and finally realizing that rules can be amended as long as one can enlist a general consensus. Moral judgment begins with consideration of the material outcome, regardless of motive. A boy breaking seven cups is naughtier than a boy breaking one. When children reach around nine years of age, they can reason that the boy breaking one cup on purpose is naughtier than the boy who broke seven cups by accident. The youngest children believe that punishment should always involve the severest form. Older children believe the punishment should befit the crime. And older yet children believe in equity – they take into consideration the circumstances of the crime and criminal before holding judgment and enforcing punishment.
Overall Impression: While Piaget was very systematic and meticulous in his observations as well as his writing, the book is more than readable. (You don’t have to be a graduate student to understand the concepts Piaget described.) I would even argue that the book was a pleasant read. If you interact with children and would like to understand their conception of rules, cooperation, and morality, this is the book for you!