Please forward this error screen to sharedip-conclusion the development of pre-school age. Follow the link for more information. 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.
The six stages of moral development are grouped into three levels of morality: pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional morality. 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. There have been critiques of the theory from several perspectives.
Nevertheless, an entirely new field within psychology was created as a direct result of Kohlberg’s theory, and according to Haggbloom et al. 20th century, Kohlberg was the 16th most frequently cited in introductory psychology textbooks throughout the century, as well as the 30th most eminent overall. Kohlberg’s scale is about how people justify behaviors and his stages are not a method of ranking how moral someone’s behavior is. There should, however, be a correlation between how someone scores on the scale and how they behave, and the general hypothesis is that moral behaviour is more responsible, consistent and predictable from people at higher levels. Kohlberg’s six stages can be more generally grouped into three levels of two stages each: pre-conventional, conventional and post-conventional.
The pre-conventional level of moral reasoning is especially common in children, although adults can also exhibit this level of reasoning. Reasoners at this level judge the morality of an action by its direct consequences. The pre-conventional level consists of the first and second stages of moral development and is solely concerned with the self in an egocentric manner. For example, an action is perceived as morally wrong because the perpetrator is punished. The last time I did that I got spanked, so I will not do it again.
The worse the punishment for the act is, the more “bad” the act is perceived to be. An example of obedience and punishment driven morality would be a child refusing to do something because it is wrong and that the consequences could result in punishment. For example, a child’s classmate tries to dare the child to skip school. The child would apply obedience and punishment driven morality by refusing to skip school because he would get punished. Stage two reasoning shows a limited interest in the needs of others, but only to a point where it might further the individual’s own interests.
An example of self-interest driven is when a child is asked by his parents to do a chore. The child asks, “what’s in it for me? The parents offer the child an incentive by giving a child an allowance to pay them for their chores. The child is motivated by self-interest to do chores. The conventional level of moral reasoning is typical of adolescents and adults.
To reason in a conventional way is to judge the morality of actions by comparing them to society’s views and expectations. The conventional level consists of the third and fourth stages of moral development. Conventional morality is characterized by an acceptance of society’s conventions concerning right and wrong. Individuals are receptive to approval or disapproval from others as it reflects society’s views. They try to be a “good boy” or “good girl” to live up to these expectations, having learned that being regarded as good benefits the self. Moral reasoning in stage four is thus beyond the need for individual approval exhibited in stage three. A central ideal or ideals often prescribe what is right and wrong.
Post-conventional moralists live by their own ethical principles—principles that typically include such basic human rights as life, liberty, and justice. Some theorists have speculated that many people may never reach this level of abstract moral reasoning. Such perspectives should be mutually respected as unique to each person or community. Laws are regarded as social contracts rather than rigid edicts. Those that do not promote the general welfare should be changed when necessary to meet “the greatest good for the greatest number of people”.
Laws are valid only insofar as they are grounded in justice, and a commitment to justice carries with it an obligation to disobey unjust laws. In his empirical studies of individuals throughout their life, Kohlberg observed that some had apparently undergone moral stage regression. This could be resolved either by allowing for moral regression or by extending the theory. Kohlberg chose the latter, postulating the existence of sub-stages in which the emerging stage has not yet been fully integrated into the personality. Kohlberg suggested that there may be a seventh stage—Transcendental Morality, or Morality of Cosmic Orientation—which linked religion with moral reasoning.