Describe and Critically Evaluate Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development

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INTRODUCTION

Lawrence Kohlberg born in 1927 was an American Psychologist who led the movement in the study of moral development in the late 1950’s. He is an outstanding example of research in the Piagetian tradition. He set out to improve and extend the work of Piaget. His work focused on Moral Development and Moral reasoning and began to develop a stage theory of moral thinking. His theories were based on the way children, adolescents and adults develop moral reasoning. The first three of these stages were in essence Piaget’s initial formations concerning cognitive reasoning.

In his doctoral dissertation (1958a) while studying at the University of Chicago Kohlberg composed six stages (in three levels, with two stages each) of moral
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Crain (1985)

Level two stage three is the level of conventional morality. The child or adolescent start to judge the morality of their actions in relation to the approval of family and society. Kohlberg (1973) suggests they make decisions based on what will make them popular and try to live up to the good boy or good girl expectation. The next stage four is maintaining the social order and obeying the laws and social conventions. Moral reasoning in stage four is thus beyond the need for individual approval exhibited in stage three; society must learn to transcend individual needs.

The level of post conventional morality is the persons view of what is right and wrong. Realisation that individuals are separate entities from society now becomes salient. At stage five people begin to ask “ What makes a good society?” Crain (1985) states that they begin to think about society in a very theoretical way. They are interested in the benefits of the community as a whole rather than the individual. Anyone who has reached stage six will have developed a set of personal ethics, they will have Universal Principles and work towards the concept of a good society. Laws are valid only insofar as they are grounded in justice, and that a commitment to justice carries with it an obligation to disobey unjust laws. Colby et al 1983 states it appears that people rarely if ever reach stage six of

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