Theses Doctoral

Development of Sociomoral Knowledge: A Cognitive-Structural Approach

Rosen, Hugh

This dissertation organizes in a conceptually and historically coherent form the available knowledge on socio-moral development. The purpose in doing so is to bring the information into the mainstream of social work education and practice. Emphasis is placed upon the significance and compatibility of sociomoral development to the field of social work from interventive, psychological, and philosophical perspectives. It is viewed as congenial to ego psychology and as fitting within the ecosystems orientation being advanced by contemporary social work theorists. Its potential as a heuristic model for generating new and effective methods of intervention across a diverse range of settings and populations is elaborated upon.

The material synthesized in this dissertation is organized and presented within the cognitive-structural framework of Jean Piaget. At the heart of the synthesis, however, is the moral developmental psychology and philosophy of Lawrence Kohlberg. The six stages of moral development which Kohlberg's longitudinal research have led him to identify are elaborated upon at length. They are posited as universal stages in light of the extant cross-cultural validation. Although only a relatively small number of people pass through all six stages, it is necessary that passage through each stage be in an unvarying sequence. Each stage signifies a particular conception of justice that is more differentiated and integrated than the previous one and is, hence, said to be more adequate for resolving competing claims between individuals or between an individual and the general welfare. In order to successfully achieve any given stage, it is necessary to first arrive at a corresponding stage of social perspectivism, which is the ability to take another's or a societal point of view. Therefore, the relevant work on perspectivism of Mead, Feffer, Flavell, and Selman is examined. The relationship between cognition and moral development, as well as between moral judgment and behavior, is also explored.

To provide depth and full comprehension of Kohlberg's work, the cognitive-structural developmental psychology of Piaget is formulated, followed by an extensive presentation of Piaget's early and only material on moral judgment, which serves as a point of departure for Kohlberg. An analysis is offered to differentiate areas of agreement and disagreement between Piaget's and Kohlberg's basic findings on moral development, the latter position representing a refinement and extension of the former.

One section of the dissertation is devoted exclusively to marshaling criticisms against Kohlberg's methodological practices and the theory supporting his psychology and philosophy. A related section provides a comparative analysis of alternate approaches to moral development, focusing specifically upon psychoanalytic and social learning models. In effect, the presentation of opposing approaches, held to be viable by
their proponents, also constitutes critical commentary.

Methods of intervention are classified into psycho-dynamic, interpersonal, and organizational categories. Assignment of an interventive method is more a matter of emphasis, however, than mutually exclusive categories.

It is urged that the Piaget-Kohlberg sociomoral model, based upon a cognitive-structural developmental psychology, be integrated into social work education. It would contribute to professional education a relevant, but neglected, body of knowledge and would also provide a means for facilitating the sociomoral advance of students. Most importantly, this
organismic-environmental model of human development would provide new strategies of intervention that could be readily assimilated to the philosophy of contemporary social work practice.


More About This Work

Academic Units
Social Work
Thesis Advisors
Whiteman, Martin
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 28, 2015