Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development constitute an adaptation of a psychological theory originally conceived by the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget. The theory holds that moral reasoning, the basis for ethical behavior, has six identifiable developmental stages, each more adequate at responding to moral dilemmas than its predecessor. Kohlberg determined that the process of moral development was principally concerned with justice, and that it continued throughout the individual’s lifetime, a notion that spawned dialogue on the philosophical implications of such research.
For his studies, Kohlberg relied on stories such as the Heinz dilemma, and was interested in how individuals would justify their actions if placed in similar moral dilemmas.
He then analyzed the form of moral reasoning displayed, rather than its conclusion, and classified it as belonging to one of six distinct stages Kohlberg’s six stages can be more generally grouped into three levels of two stages each: pre-conventional, conventional and post-conventional. Following Piaget’s constructivist requirements for a stage model, as described in his theory of cognitive development, it is extremely rare to regress in stages—to lose the use of higher stage abilities.
Stages cannot be skipped; each provides a new and necessary perspective, more comprehensive and differentiated than its predecessors but integrated with them. Kohlberg’s Theory
The stage of Moral Development/Moral Reasoning
- Pre-conventional level
- Conventional level
- Post-conventional level
..Psychologist, studied the reasoning ability & recognizing where a child is at according to stages can help identify how child may feel about illness ,moral reasoning & cognitive stages of development.
LEVEL| STAGE/YEARS| CHARACTERISTICS| Pre conventional| Stage 1(2 to 3 y/o)Stage 2(4 to 7 y/o)| Obedience and punishment orientation(How can I avoid punishment?) A child tell him the right thing because he was told to do so to avoid punishment.–Self-interest orientation(Paying for a benefit)Child caries out actions to satisfy his own needs rather than the society’s.The child does something for another if he gets something in return.| Conventional| Stage 3(7/10 y/o)Stage 4(10/12 y/o)| Interpersonal accord and conformity(The good boy/good girl attitude)A child follows rules because of a need to be good person in own eyes & in the eyes of the others…Authority and social-order maintaining orientation(Law and order morality)A child follows rules of authority figures as well as parents to keep the system working.| Post conventional| Stage 5(older than 12y/o)Stage 6(older than 12 y/o)| Social contract orientation(Utilitarian Law Making Perspective)A child follow standards of society for the good of people…Universal ethical principles(Principled conscience)A child follows internalized standards of conduct.|
Advantages of the Kohlberg’s theory
The ability to empirically test the individual for where they are in their moral development, along with offering a basic structure for creating “just communities” applicable both within and outside student affairs. Moreover, Kohlberg’s model offers insight as to why an individual may be seeking out justice based on what stage they are in. 2. Kohlberg’s theory essentially provides a roadmap for moral thinking that otherwise did not exist. 3. It inadvertently offers benchmarks for where one might be in their moral development based on their life situation. 4. Offering a structure for “just communities.” It was Kohlberg’s hope that he would employ his theory to create communities that were collaborative, held each other accountable, and had philosophical and educational discussions to further both the individual and the group in their moral development (Kohlberg, 1971, 1972). It offers a venue for individuals to discuss a number of hypothetical or moral dilemmas while simultaneously furthering development through cognitive dissonance.
Disadvantages in Kohlberg’s theory
Gender differences that affect moral reasoning; cultural differences in regards to the Western cultures versus the non-Western cultures; the model being a hard stage model; the focus of justice over care and finally the use of hypothetical decision making over real life dilemmas in the assessments. 2. Gender differences in moral reasoning. Carol Gilligan (1982/1983) was strongly opposed to Kohlberg’s model mainly on the basis of gender. As stated, Kohlberg originally based his theory on a study of young male individuals excluding women. Gilligan (1982/1983) argued that Kohlberg’s theory incorporated a gender bias directly into the theory as well as the assessment tools. Moreover, she argued Kohlberg ignored a women’s moral orientation to a response of care. Some studies have shown that looking at responses to the Rest’s Defining Issues Test (DIT) (Rest, 1986a) and Moral Judgment Interview (MJI) (Colby, et al, 1987), men tend to be more justice oriented and women more care oriented, and especially so when they take on the traditional gender roles (Rest, 1986b; Walker, 1984).
This is concerning since Kohlberg’s theory is truly justice oriented. It may be more difficult to get an accurate answer about where a woman is in moral development in regards to Kohlberg’s stage model than a male. 3. Cultural and Religious. Religion can play a major factor in an individual’s personal and moral development. Both Rest (1986) and Dirks (1988) found that a number that religion was a factor in moral decision making. Rest (1986) found that those coming from a liberal perspective tended to score higher in moral development than others. Dirks (1988) found that those with an evangelical belief system are less likely to enter into the post conventional stage. In terms of cultural differences there is likely a difference in moral reasoning in Western cultures versus non Western cultures. The value systems often differ vastly and as such may not be able to fit in to one particular stage in Kohlberg’s theory. Western cultures tend to be more individualistic (Miller & Bersoff, 1992). While this problem may seem minute, the validity of a theory must be tested across gender and culture. In this regard, Kohlberg’s theory is not as applicable to other cultures because it is based off a values system that is very much Americanized. Ironically, a theory that seeks to promote universality is not as universal as it should be.
Kohlberg’s Theory covers the moral development stages of an individual and I think this theory is a huge help for a person, especially those who have children. Kohlberg’s theory may serve as guide on how a parent would treat their child’s behaviour. Parents would understand why their child is behaving in such manner and they can make disciplinary action or decision on how to correct or improve unpleasant behaviour. And guide them in developing their sense of morality. And make them an honest and morally mature person.
By knowing this theory we can also examine ourselves. Reflect and think of situation we encountered in our life and how we reacted to it. By doing so, we will know what level of morality we fit in.
I think morality depends on a person’s point of view. We can only say it’s wrong if it’s against the law but the morality issue of the person really depends on what his conscience tell him.
Lawrence Kohlberg theory of Moral Development gives a detailed explanation on how a child develops morally. This theory is remarkable because we now have an overview about morality and we now have guidance if we are on the right track or not. We can now assess our level of morality. And we can now choose what level we want to be.
Mr.Dennies Dela Cruz
Ms.Iris Vi P.De Jesus
“Morality is the ability to see an issue from points of view other than just your own.” — Lawrence Kohlberg—
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