Lawrence Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development Essay

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Lawrence Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development

Lawrence Kohlberg conducted research on the moral development of children. He wanted to understand how they develop a sense of right or wrong and how justice is served. Kohlberg used surveys in which he included moral dilemmas where he asked the subjects to evaluate a moral conflict. Through his studies, Kohlberg observed that moral growth and development precedes through stages such as those of Piaget’s stages of cognitive development. He theorized that moral growth begins at the beginning of life and continues until the day one dies. He believed that people proceed through each stage of moral development consecutively without skipping or going back to a previous stage. The stages of
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Subjects usually between the ages of 5 to 10 are observed maintaining the attributes of being “self-serving.” (4) This stage is characterized by a view that right behavior means acting in one’s own best interest and occasionally taking into consideration the needs of others. There is an early emergence of moral reciprocity. “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” The individual will do what is necessary to satisfy his own needs not concentrating on loyalty or gratitude. Justice becomes “Do unto others as they do unto you.” What is right is the immediate interest in the form of an equal exchange, deal or agreement. A subject at this stage of moral development has a basic understanding that norms and conventions are necessary to uphold society. (2) The motto of this stage is “What’s in it for me?” Elements of sharing are present but are interpreted in a physical pragmatic way. (4)

The second level of moral development is the conventional level. At this level, the adolescent begins to accept the rules and standards of one’s family or group. This level of moral thinking is generally found in society. The attitude of the individual is to maintain, support, and justify social order and identify with the persons or group involved. This level is divided into the stages of interpersonal conformity and law and order orientation, with a transition stage before the post conventional level. (3)

An individual at the
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