Kohlberg 1978

Details of this study

HideShow resource information
Preview of Kohlberg 1978

First 664 words of the document:

Kohlberg (1978)
Key Points:
His theory holds that moral reasoning, which is the basis for ethical behaviour, has six identifiable
developmental constructive stages - each more adequate at responding to moral dilemmas than the
Kohlberg's six stages were grouped into three levels: pre-conventional, conventional, and
Level 1 (Pre-Conventional). The pre-conventional level of moral reasoning is especially common in
children, although adults can also exhibit this level of reasoning. Reasoners in the pre-conventional
level judge the morality of an action by its direct consequences.
1. Obedience and punishment orientation, individuals focus on the direct consequences that their
actions will have for themselves. For example, an action is perceived as morally wrong if the person
who commits it gets punished.
2. Self-interest orientation, espouses what's in it for me position, right behaviour being defined by
what is in one's own best interest. Stage two reasoning shows a limited interest in the needs of
others, but only to a point where it might further one's own interests, such as you scratch my back,
and I'll scratch yours.
Level 2 (Conventional). The conventional level of moral reasoning is typical of adolescents and adults.
Persons who reason in a conventional way judge the morality of actions by comparing these actions to
societal views and expectations.
3. Interpersonal accord and conformity, the self enters society by filling social roles. Individuals are
receptive of approval or disapproval from other people as it reflects society's accordance with the
perceived role. Stage three reasoning may judge the morality of an action by evaluating its
consequences in terms of a person's relationships, which now begin to include things like respect,
gratitude and the 'golden rule'.
4. Authority and social-order maintaining orientation, it is important to obey laws, dictums and social
conventions because of their importance in maintaining a functioning society. Moral reasoning in stage
four is thus beyond the need for individual approval exhibited in stage three; society must learn to
transcend individual needs. Most active members of society remain at Stage four, where morality is
still predominantly dictated by an outside force.
Level 3 (Post-Conventional). Realization that individuals are separate entities from society now
becomes salient. One's own perspective should be viewed before the society.
5. Social contract orientation, individuals are viewed as holding different opinions and values. Along a
similar vein, laws are regarded as social contracts rather than rigid dictums.
6. Universal ethical principles, moral reasoning is based on abstract reasoning using universal ethical
principles. Laws are valid only insofar as they are grounded in justice and that a commitment to justice
carries with it an obligation to disobey unjust laws.
In his empirical studies of persons across their life-span, Kohlberg came to notice that some people
evidently had undergone moral stage regression. He postulated the existence of sub-stages wherein
the emerging stage has not yet been adequately integrated into the personality. In particular Kohlberg
noted of a stage 4½ or 4+, which is a transition from stage four to stage five, sharing characteristics of
both. In this stage the individual has become disaffected with the arbitrary nature of law and order
Kohlberg further speculated that a seventh stage may exist (Transcendental Morality or Morality of
Cosmic Orientation) which would link religion with moral reasoning
Criticisms of this study:
Emphasizes justice to the exclusion of other values. As a consequence of this, it may not adequately
address the arguments of people who value other moral aspects of actions. Kohlberg's theory was
initially developed based on empirical research using only male participants; Gilligan argued that it did
not adequately describe the concerns of women.
Other psychologists have questioned the assumption that moral action is primarily reached by formal


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all resources »