Freud was interested in expressions of aggression; Piaget was not.
Freud felt it necessary to construct the concept of the “Id”; Piaget was not, but he did feel it necessary to construct the concept of egocentrism.
For Freud there is a crucial period for moral development around age 4, in which the Superego forms according to the resolution of the Oedipal conflict. For Piaget, there is no particular period essential for moral development, although he does recognize the shift from heteronomous to autonomous morality.
Piaget argues that the young child “assimilates” mild parental discipline into his “heteronomous” structure, perceiving the parents’ rules as much harsher than they are. Freud argues that the strength of the child’s own aggressive impulses toward his parents (largely biologically determined) is an important influence on the strength of his Superego, more influential than the parents’ aggressive or strict behaviors toward the child. Freud’s general point here is that very strong Id impulses directed toward the parents in the phallic stage produce very strong Superegos.
Freud argues that the powerful human influencing agents are the parents, while Piaget says peers are as important or more important than parents are.
Freud emphasizes what might be called moral feelings (particularly guilt), whereas Piaget is more interested in moral judgment.
Freud gathered data on childhood through the free associations and other verbal reports of adults. Piaget gathered his by directly observing children.
Freud’s methods were largely verbal. For this reason, he thought it impossible to psychoanalyze children. Piaget began his studies by interviewing children, but eventually turned to greater use of manipulable materials and concrete tasks.
II. Similarities between the two
Freud and Piaget share an interest in development. Both see the understanding of childhood as a key to understanding the adult.
Freud and Piaget both recognized the similarities between children and adults: Freud suggested that even infants are sexual beings and Piaget showed that young children reason.
Both were “stage” theorists; they pointed to qualitative changes with age. However, Freud saw development mainly in terms of the body: his stages are based on changes in zones of pleasure; whereas, Piaget focused on changes in mental functioning.
Both see the infant as essentially amoral. They also see that infants and young children are hedonists: they seek pleasure and avoid pain, seek rewards and try to avoid punishment.
Both Freud and Piaget are concerned with universal processes of moral development. Freud was interested in the process by which the Superego functions appears, and Piaget was interested in changes in the reasoning for moral judgments.
Neither Freud nor Piaget was primarily interested in individual differences; nor were they primarily interested in the “content” of morality, in which particular activities a child considers wrong or feel guilty about.
Freud and Piaget agree that the child is the principal agent for his own moral development: the child actively constructs his own morality. The young child is affected by his parents’ standards, but he is not simply the passive recipient of those standards.