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Nass, M.L. (1966). The Superego and Moral Development in the Theories of Freud and Piaget. Psychoanal. St. Child, 21:51-68.

(1966). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 21:51-68

The Superego and Moral Development in the Theories of Freud and Piaget

Martin L. Nass, Ph.D.

The purpose of this paper is to present an exposition of the psychoanalytic conception of the superego, to show how the concept developed and became modified, and to compare it with an exposition of the theory of moral development of Jean Piaget. An attempt is made to define areas of common concern in both positions and to outline theoretical overlap.

What has come to be called the superego in psychoanalysis actually comprises several aspects of personality which are often grouped together. The conceptualization of these structures and functions has undergone changes with the evolution of psychoanalytic theory. The fact that some authors have at times distinguished between such terms as "superego," "ego ideal," and "conscience," and at other times used them interchangeably has served to make the dimensions of the superego unclear. In addition, the various elements which comprise the superego are modified during the course of the individual's development and these developmental considerations gave rise to the problem of dating the onset of the superego. Most writers reserve the term superego for the postoedipal period and refer to the earlier manifestations as superego precursors. This practice follows Freud's conception of the superego as the "heir of the oedipus complex" (1923p. 36) and his statement that "We ought not to speak of a conscience until a super-ego is demonstrably present" (1930p. 136).


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