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Moral Development and Reality

Beyond the Theories of Kohlberg, Hoffman, and Haidt

Fourth Edition

John C. Gibbs

Publication Date - 02 May 2019

ISBN: 9780190878214

424 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Explores the nature of moral development, human behavior, and social interconnections.


Moral Development and Reality explores the nature of moral development, human behavior, and social interconnections. The exploration elucidates the full range of moral development, from superficial perception to a deeper understanding and feeling through social perspective-taking. By comparing, contrasting, and going beyond the key theories of preeminent thinkers Lawrence Kohlberg, Martin Hoffman, and Jonathan Haidt, John C. Gibbs tackles vital questions: What exactly is morality and its development? Can the key theoretical perspectives be integrated? What accounts for prosocial behavior, and how can we understand and treat antisocial behavior? Does moral development, including moments of moral inspiration, reflect a deeper reality?

This fourth edition of Moral Development and Reality is thoroughly updated, refined, and expanded. A major addition considers Paul Bloom's important challenge to Hoffman's theory. This book will have broad appeal across academic and applied disciplines in social and developmental psychology, education, the helping professions, and human development. Complete with case studies and chapter questions, it serves especially well as a text in advanced undergraduate and graduate courses in social and developmental psychology, education, the helping professions, and human development.

New to this Edition

  • One chapter features an entirely new section concerning the contributions of Paul Bloom
  • Each chapter has been thoroughly updated


  • Provides an integrative new view of lifespan socio-moral development
  • Includes broad coverage of moral identity and other variables that account for prosocial behavior
  • Compares and contrasts major theories and provides insightful and balanced treatment of each theory
  • Features case studies and sample questions for pedagogical use

About the Author(s)

John C. Gibbs is Professor of Developmental Psychology at The Ohio State University, Columbus. His research interests include cross-cultural sociomoral development, parental socialization, empathy, prosocial behavior, and antisocial behavior. Dr. Gibbs developed a major intervention program for antisocial youth and has established assessment measures of moral judgment, moral identity, social perspective taking, self-serving cognitive distortions, and social skills. In addition to his books, Dr. Gibbs has authored or coauthored over 90 book chapters and articles on topics pertaining to moral development and reality.


"I enthusiastically recommend John Gibbs' Moral Development & Reality to scholars, practitioners, parents, and students. . . . Like Gibbs himself, this book is sincerely honest, very smart, and truly helpful." -- Ann Higgins-D'Alessandro, Professor of Psychology, Fordham University

"Covers the range of my work far better than anything else in print." -- Martin L. Hoffman, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, New York University

"This is the most sensible and insightful book on moral development that I have seen in over twenty years. In this masterful treatment, John Gibbs examines the recent trends in moral psychology with a deep understanding of the classic questions and controversies in the field. The book is both intellectually satisfying and exciting to read." -- William Damon, Professor of Education, Director, Stanford Center on Adolescence

"Ambitious and well-written. . . . Gibbs introduces in detail the major theoretical positions on moral development. He presents the positions fairly, critiques them judiciously, and presents his own intriguing synthesis." -- Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard University

"Excellent--very fair, gracious, and thoughtful." -- Paul Bloom, Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science, Yale University

"At a time when the study of moral development is more about describing and explaining details of the trees than about characterizing the forest as a whole, Gibbs provides a much needed integration of what's known and what remains to be learned in this important area. Integrating the distinct perspectives of Kohlberg, Hoffman, Haidt, and Bloom, as well as providing unique insights of his own, this book is a remarkable achievement." -- Robert Siegler, Schiff Foundations Professor of Psychology and Education, Columbia University

"Comprehensive and engaging . . . .The wealth of updated references and the inclusion of Paul Bloom's important work on empathy make this text especially valuable. . . . Gibbs' lively anecdotes bring the theory and research alive. Moral Development and Reality offers scholars and students alike a current, well-crafted and fascinating blend of psychology, philosophy, and even physics." -- Elizabeth C. Vozzola, Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Saint Joseph

"Some books add to their field of inquiry; others define it. John Gibbs' Moral Development and Reality is one of the latter. Its importance to moral psychology is unsurpassed by any work of the past half century." -- Thomas Lickona, Director, Center for the 4th and 5th Rs (Respect and Responsibility), State University of New York at Cortland

"Gibbs bravely puts forth one of the most integrative and comprehensive syntheses of the field of moral development ever attempted. . . . A truly remarkable work." -- Charles C. Helwig, Professor of Psychology, University of Toronto

"The most important contribution to the study of moral development since the turn of the century." -- from the Foreword by David Moshman

"An excellent source with respect to current theorizing and current controversies in the domain of moral reasoning." -- Scott A. Miller, author, Developmental Research Methods

"A penetrating examination of moral development [that] challenges all of us to think more deeply about the moral landscape." -- Darcia Narvaez, Professor of Psychology, University of Notre Dame

"A fascinating and provocative book with an original perspective. The analysis of the theory and contributions of Lawrence Kohlberg is far more sophisticated, well-grounded, and balanced than one finds in most other texts." --Carolyn Pope Edwards, William Cather Professor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

"The most comprehensive and convincing account of moral experience available today. The book is masterful-and an essential read for students and seasoned scholars alike." --Mary Louise Arnold, Professor Emerita, University of Toronto

"A bold, penetrating, and cutting-edge analysis." -- F. Clark Power, Professor, University of Notre Dame

"Quite alive intellectually, a real page turner for those who are animated by cutting-edge debates in the moral domain. This is a work of accomplished and assured scholarship." -- Daniel K. Lapsley, ACE Collegiate Professor of Psychology, University of Notre Dame

"There is much to admire in Gibbs's important book. It is the only sustained attempt of which I am aware to synthesize the major traditions in cognitive and affective developmental research and theory, doing so by emphasizing both cognitive and affective capacities for taking the perspective of the other." --Roger Bergman, Professor, Justice & Peace Studies Program, Creighton University

"Provides a most engaging journey through the terrain of moral and empathic development through the eyes of a seasoned guide. . . . remarkably fresh, interesting, and provocative." --Kurt Keljo, Journal of Moral Education

"Moral Development and Reality is a truly impressive work. It offers not only a theoretical but also an empirical basis for the right and the good, and a rationale for a new ethic of connection and loving reciprocity." -- Bruce Greyson, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, University of Virginia

"Gibbs has laid a brilliant foundation in his book, and his talent for applying moral theory to helping antisocial people mature into prosocial behavior is unsurpassed--except perhaps by the transformational power of a near-death experience (NDE). In my view, he has done a great service by using the NDE literature to anchor his estimable work." -- Journal of Near-Death Studies

Table of Contents

    Foreword by David Moshman

    1. Introduction

    2. Beyond Haidt's New Synthesis

    3. "The Right" and Moral Development: Fundamental Themes of Kohlberg's Cognitive Developmental Approach

    4. Kohlberg's Theory: A Critique and New View

    5. "The Good" and Moral Development: Hoffman's Theory and Its Critics

    6. Moral Development, Moral Identity, and Prosocial Behavior

    7. Understanding Antisocial Behavior

    8. Treating Antisocial Behavior

    9. Beyond the Theories: A Deeper Reality?

    10. Conclusion