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Kohlberg theory of moral development
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Kohlberg's theory of moral development

Infants possess no morals or ethics at birth 


moral development occurs independently of age, through experiences and their understanding of moral concepts


3 levels - each with 2 stages 


Moral development is linear - stages cannot be skipped, takes place throughout the lifespan 


Requires a role model offering a model of the principles of the next higher level. 

What are the three levels of Kohlberg



post conventional 

Level 1 of Kohlberg is
pre-conventional - stage 1

moral judgement are concrete


breaking rules may lead to punishment's 


Reasoning is egocentric and is not concerned with others 


Ex: the child typically says that Heinz was wrong to steal the drug because "It's against the law," or "It's bad to steal," as if this were all there were to it. When asked to elaborate, the child usually responds in terms of the consequences involved, explaining that stealing is bad "because you'll get punished


 children think of what is right as that which authority says is right. Doing the right thing is obeying authority and avoiding punishment.



pre-conventional - stage 2 



Individualism & exchange 


There is not just one right view. 

Follow rules when it is in the person best interest. 


punishment is simply a risk that one naturally wants to avoid.


still said to reason at the preconventional level because they speak as isolated individuals rather than as members of society. They see individuals exchanging favors, but there is still no identification with the values of the family or community.


EX: He stole it to help his family. 


children are no longer so impressed by any single authority; they see that there are different sides to any issue. Since everything is relative, one is free to pursue one's own interests, although it is often useful to make deals and exchange favors with others.


Conventional - stage 3



Good Interpersonal Relationships


Usually entering their teens

Live up to the expectations of family 

it assumes that the attitude expressed would be shared by the entire community


Ex: the man who robbed the pharmacy to get the drugs his wife needed should be let go because he is a good person that wanted to help his wife. 


 they emphasize being a good person, which basically means having helpful motives toward people close to one

Conventional - stage 4

Shifts from narrow norms to role expectations in a larger community. 


have a conception of the function of laws for society as a whole--a conception which far exceeds the grasp of the younger child in stage 1


Ex: the man broke the law but now the child understand what the law is and why 


 the concern shifts toward obeying laws to maintain society as a whole.

Post conventional - stage 5

Social Contract and Individual Rights

only 10-15% achieve this level


people begin to ask, "What makes for a good society?" They begin to think about society in a very theoretical way, stepping back from their own society and considering the rights and values that a society ought to uphold. 


people are making more of an independent effort to think out what any society ought to value


Ex: that property has little meaning without life. They are trying to determine logically what a society ought to be like


 they emphasize basic rights and the democratic processes that give everyone a say

Post conventional - stage 6

Universal Principles.


working toward a conception of the good society


they define the principles by which agreement will be most just.



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