Lawrence Kohlberg Stages Of Moral Development

How Do Morality Develop? - Explain Kohlberg Theory Of Moral Development: Pre Conventional , Conventional , Post Conventional | 3 Levels Of Morality - pupilstutor.com


Lawrence Kohlberg Stages Of Moral Development

Kohlberg (1971) who was influenced by John Dewey and Jean Piaget, postulated cognitive-developmental series of stages of moral development.

According to him, the stages follow the same order in all the children but the rate at which they will attain mastery of various stages may vary also.

Kohlberg believes that we should stimulate children to move to higher moral stages, arguing that this is constitutional, philosophically justified, and socially useful.

  • Kohlberg stated that children’s thinking about right and wrong begins with operant conditioning.
  • Kohlberg (1984) proposed that moral thinking is based on an individual’s thinking regarding

    • Justice,
    • Fairness, and equity.
  • As the child matures, he is able to think about right and wrong in terms of reciprocal activities and then progresses to conventional thinking where he begins to think in terms of important group members such as parents, teachers, or friends before moving to a society-maintaining orientation of following laws and regulations.
  • Theoretically, some people move to post-conventional thinking where they accept principles in a contract and select their own moral principles.

Lawrence Kohlberg (1977) elaborated Piaget’s theory of moral development and identified three levels of morality. He assumed that the development of the capacity for moral judgment is continuous and gradual.

Kohlberg’s three levels of moral development are divided into six stages. Each of the six stages is defined by 12 basic moral aspects, issues, or values.

Kohlberg's 6 Stages of Moral Development

Level I: Pre-Conventional / Premoral

  • Stage I - Moral motives are defined in terms of avoiding punishment.
  • Stage II - It is the desire for obtaining rewards to have favors returned.

Level II: Conventional / Role Conformity

  • Stage III - Moral conscience functions to avoid disapproval and dislikes by others.
  • Stage IV - It functions to avoid censure by legitimate authorities and the resulting guilt level.

Level III: Post Conventional / Self-Accepted Moral Principles

  • Stage V - Motivation lies in the desire to maintain the respect of an impartial spectator judging the terms of community welfare.
  • Stage VI - Conformity to moral principles serves to avoid self-condemnation.

Level I: Pre-Conventional / Premoral

Moral values reside in external, quasi-physical events, or in bad acts.

  • The child is responsive to rules and evaluative labels but views them in terms of pleasant or unpleasant consequences of actions, or in terms of the physical power of those who impose the rules.

Stage I - Moral motives are defined in terms of avoiding punishment.

  • Egocentric deference to superior power or prestige, or a trouble-avoiding set.
  • Objective responsibility.

Stage II – It is the desire for obtaining rewards to have favors returned.

  • Right action is that which is instrumental in satisfying the self's needs and occasionally others.
  • The relativism of values to each actor's needs and perspectives.
  • Naive egalitarianism, orientation to exchange, and reciprocity.

Level II: Conventional / Role Conformity

Moral values reside in performing the right role, in maintaining the conventional order and expectancies of others as a value in its own right.


Stage III – Moral conscience functions to avoid disapproval and dislikes by others.

  • Orientation to approval, to pleasing and helping others.
  • Conformity to stereotypical images of the majority or natural role behavior.
  • Action is evaluated in terms of intentions.

Stage IV - It functions to avoid censure by legitimate authorities and the resulting guilt level.

  • Orientation to "doing duty" and to showing respect for authority and maintaining the given social order for its own sake.
  • Regard for earned expectations of others.
  • Differentiates actions out of a sense of obligation to rules from actions for generally "nice" or natural motives.

Level III: Post Conventional / Self-Accepted Moral Principles

Morality is defined in terms of conformity to shared standards, rights, or duties apart from supporting authority.

  • The standards conformed to internal, and action decisions are based on an inner process of thought and judgment concerning right and wrong.

Stage V – Motivation lies in the desire to maintain the respect of an impartial spectator judging the terms of community welfare.

  • Norms of right and wrong are defined in terms of laws or institutionalized rules which seem to have a rational basis.
  • When conflict arises between individual needs and law or contract, though sympathetic to the former, the individual believes the latter must prevail because of its greater functional rationality for society, the majority will, and welfare.

Stage VI – Conformity to moral principles serves to avoid self-condemnation.

  • Orientation not only toward existing social rules, but also toward the conscience as a directing agent, mutual trust and respect, and principles of moral choice involving logical universalities and consistency.
  • Action is controlled by internalized ideals that exert pressure to act accordingly regardless of the reactions of others in the immediate environment.
  • If one acts otherwise, self-condemnation and guilt result.

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