Theory of Moral Development : Lawrence Kohlberg
Kohlberg claimed that persons go through certain stages in their approach to morality or moral reasoning.

Based on the ideas about the relation of morality and thinking advanced by John Dewey and Jean Piaget, Kohlberg began a major study of moral thinking in 1950. While working with boys between the ages of ten and sixteen, he came to the conclusion that there was a natural developmental pattern to moral reasoning.

Kohlbergís viewpoint is not static by any means. He has devoted much recent effort to a philosophical articulation of the theory. With continuing empirical research he has also developed refinements in the stages (subdividing them) and in the experimental techniques

Stages in Moral Development: Pre-conventional Moral Development
Stage Zero: Pre-moral (Before moral)
  • Pleasure-pain (exciting-fearful) determine behavior
  • No sense of obligation or morality; no comprehension of effects of actions
  • Not immoral but amoral: lacking ability to discern right/wrong (infant)
  • Take what is pleasant; avoid what is unpleasant
  • Person is guided by what he or she can and wants to do, even hurting others for the pleasure or excitement it may bring him or her
  • You might say person has self-chosen rules BELOW the social order

Stage One: Simple Authority Orientation

  • Obedience and punishment orientation where physical consequences determine good or bad; because he feels that might makes right, he bows to stronger personís rules
  • Deference to superior power or prestige; authority figure determines standards
  • Responsive to rules IF he thinks heíll be caught and punished

Stage Two: ďInstrumental relativistĒ: Whatís in it for me?

  • Naively egoistic orientation (Itís all about me!)
  • Satisfies needs of self and occasionally others
  • Equal sharing: exchange, reciprocity, fairness, same for all, treat all the same, eye for eye
  • You scratch my back & Iíll scratch yours not from concern or loyalty, but because itís equal, fair
Stages: Conventional Moral Development
Stage Three: Interpersonal Concordance Ė Good Boy/Nice Girl orientation
  • Being nice, approval, and pleasing a limited group are all important
  • Puts oneself in anotherís shoes; conscience begins here; considers feelings of others
  • "Good behavior is that which pleases or helps others and is approved by them. There is much conformity to stereotypical images of what is majority or 'natural' behavior.
  • Behavior is frequently judged by intention. 'He means well' becomes important for the first time. One earns approval by being 'nice.'"

Stage Four: Law and Order

  • Orientation toward authority and maintenance of the social order for its own sake
  • Does duty; respect for authority and majority rule
  • Rigid: fixed rules are hard to change
Stages: Post-Conventional Moral Development
Stage Five: Social Contract
  • Contractual and legalistic; constitutional and democratic/li>
  • Standards critically examined and socially agreed upon; Legalistic but law can be changed for the benefit of society.
  • Individual rights respected except when contrary to social contract (agreed rights)
  • Moral values defined in terms of individual rights and standards agreed upon by society Consensus (general agreement, unanimity) rather than majority (one over half)

Stage Six: Ethical principles

  • Orientation to ethical principles higher than the law
  • Conscience guided by self-chosen principles (Do no harm to others.)
  • Obedience or disobedience to law based on moral respect for justice for all people.
  • ďAt heart, these are universal principles of justice, of the reciprocity and equality of human rights, and of respect for the dignity of human beings as individual persons."

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