Morality in Ages Six through Nine

“Two important things to teach a child: to do and to do without.”
– Marcelene Cox –

Around age six, children begin to consistently discern correctly between right and wrong, although they still depend on rules to guide their behavior. From six to nine, they seem to have a strong, innate sense of justice and are alert to infractions of the rules. “It’s not fair” is a common complaint, and they’re quick to point a finger at anyone who breaks the rules. At this age, children have a fairness-focused “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” sense of morality. But they often have a double standard as well: Justice for all, mercy for me. Dr. Lickona says they believe “right” is to “look out for myself but be fair to those who are fair to me.” Researchers call this stage of morality “concrete moral reciprocity.”

Toward the end of this stage, children begin to transition from this tit-for-tat view of morality to a more altruistic view. They begin to realize that there’s a sense of satisfaction in doing good deeds “for free,” that is, without requiring that a good deed be done for them in return.

Children from age five to seven are “awakening to social color,” says Dr. Wright. By age eight, they’re aware of differences between races and are usually able to correctly identify most races. If the significant adults in children’s lives welcome and include people of different races, children will too. If significant adults show racial prejudice, children will most likely show the same prejudice, although they may not fully understand what that means or what the consequences are.

The Morality of Ages Six Through Nine

– moving from literal to symbolic reasoning
– concrete operational – competitive
– rule oriented
– story centered faith
– eye for eye morality

Conflict: Industry vs. Inferiority Strength: Competence

Strength: Purpose

adapted from The Gift of an Inner Moral Compass © Karyn Henley.
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Top image by Cheryl Holt from Pixabay