Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development

The cognitive theorist Jean Piaget’s previous work was elaborated upon by Lawrence Kohlberg in an attempt to elucidate how children’s moral development, which he thought occurs in phases, develops. Preconventional, conventional, and postconventional moral development are the three stages that Kohlberg identified. There are two unique levels for each.

Nowadays, people think that certain laws are unfair and ought to be modified or repealed. The aspects of gender bias in Kohlberg’s thesis toward white, upper-class males and boys have been disputed. Additionally, it does not take into consideration moral judgmental contradictions.

Stages of moral development proposed by Kohlberg

Pre-conventional, conventional, and postconventional moral thinking are the three levels that Kohlberg distinguished. Each level corresponds to a more advanced degree of moral growth.

Preconventional level of moral development

The preconvention phase is when a child’s morality is externally governed. The standards of families, educators, and other significant people are accepted and believed by children. A kid with pre-conventional morality has not yet embraced or absorbed society’s norms of what is good or bad, and rather places a strong emphasis on the possible external effects that particular actions may have.

Stage 1: Obedience-and-Punishment Orientation: It emphasizes the kid’s desire to follow rules and stay out of trouble. For instance, when someone is punished for their behavior, it is viewed as morally incorrect; the heavier the consequence, the more “wrong” the deed is thought to be.

Stage 2: Instrumental Orientation: It conveys the “what’s in it for me?” viewpoint, according to which what a person perceives to be in their best interests is what constitutes appropriate action. The second stage of thinking demonstrates a limited concern for other people’s needs, primarily to the extent that it could serve the individual’s own goals. Because of this, caring for others is not motivated by loyalty or genuine regard but rather by the principle of reciprocity.

Conventional level of moral development

A kid’s moral code is connected to interpersonal and social connections throughout the conventional level. Youngsters still comply with authority figures’ guidelines, but now they do so because they think it’s vital to maintain good relationships and social order. Throughout these phases, norms and customs are adhered to relatively rigidly, and the propriety or justice of a rule is rarely questioned.

  • Stage 3: Good Boy, Nice Girl Orientation: Children behave in ways to win others’ praise because they desire it. Individuals are encouraged to behave well and be “kind” to one another.
  • Stage 4: Law-and-Order Orientation: The necessity of norms and tradition in preserving a functional society causes the kid to accept them without question. Everybody is assumed to follow the same set of norms, and doing what one is “supposed to do” is valued and significant. Stage four moral thinking goes further than the stage three demand for personal acceptance. There is indeed a duty to follow laws and regulations because if one individual breaks a law, possibly everyone would. The majority of people still live in stage four of society, where external forces continue to have a strong influence on morality.

Post-conventional level of moral development

A person’s sense of morality is described in terms of increasingly esoteric ideas and principles throughout the post-conventional level. Nowadays, people think that certain laws are unfair and ought to be modified or repealed. At this stage, people begin to understand that they are distinct from the community and that they have the right to violate laws that go against their moral convictions.

In contrast to conventional moralists, who see rules as unquestionably binding directives that must be blindly followed, post-conventional authoritarians live by their own ethical principles, which frequently include such fundamental rights as life, liberty, and justice. Since post-conventional people prioritize their own moral assessment of a situation over societal norms, their conduct, particularly at stage six, can occasionally be mistaken for that of those who are pre-conventional.

  • Stage 5: Social-Contract Orientation: It is assumed that everyone on the globe has diverse beliefs, rights, and values. Such viewpoints have to be recognised on a reciprocal basis as being particular to each person or society. Regulations are seen as social contracts as opposed to strict rules.  When required, those that don’t advance the common good should be modified to achieve the greatest good for the largest number of people. This is accomplished by unavoidable compromise and majority rule. Stage five thinking serves as the theoretical foundation for democratic administration.
  • Stage 6: Universal-Ethical-Principle Orientation: The foundation of moral reasoning is abstract reasoning based on general ethical standards. The established ideals often center on concepts like equality, dignity, or respect and are abstract rather than specific. Laws may only be considered valid if they are based on justice, and those who are committed to justice are obligated to defy unconstitutional laws. People decide what moral standards they wish to uphold, and they feel bad if they breach those standards. In this case, the person behaves in a morally just manner (rather than to escape punishment), for their own benefit, since it is required of them, because it is the law, or because it was originally agreed upon.