Stages of Moral Development - Lawrence Kohlberg’s Theory
(Lecture Notes from Mr. Kersey's 8th Grade Religion Class - Morality)
- Lawrence Kohlberg, a psychologist at Harvard, came up with a theory that said people progressed through stages of moral development as they grew.
- Kohlberg was able to demonstrate this through experiments.
- His theory says that people can go through six stages of moral development.
- You have to go through them one by one, but you can go backwards.
The Stages of Moral Development
- Level One: Pre-Conventional
- 1. Obedience and Punishment
- 2. Individualism…and Exchange
- The first level of moral thinking is generally found at the elementary school level.
- In Stage 1 (Obedience…), people behave and do the right thing because they are told to.
- Authority figures are parents, teachers, etc.
- This obedience is compelled by the threat or application of punishment.
- In Stage 2 (Individualism…), people have a view that right behavior means acting in one's own best interests.
- Level Two: Conventional
- 3. Good boy/girl
- 4. Law and Order
- This is the second level of moral thinking. It is the stage usually found in society.
- In Stage 3 (Good boy/girl), people do what will gain the approval of others.
- In Stage 4 (Law and Order) people want to abide by the law and do what is right out of a sense of duty.
- Level Three: Post-Conventional
- 5. Social Contract
- 6. Principled Conscience
- Kohlberg thought most people never reached this level.
- In Stage 5, (Social Contract) people understand the importance of others and that welfare is mutual.
- In Stage 6 (Principled Conscience) people do good because they believe it is the right thing to do, regardless of reward or punishment.
- Kohlberg had trouble finding people who were examples of Stage 6.
- Jesus was a definite Stage 6 guy.
- Which stage are you?
- What can you do to move up the ladder, or develop your conscience?