Moral Development - Kholberg

Kholberg's theory of moral development.

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Introduction to Kholberg's theory of moral develop

Kholberg (1958) produced a theory of moral development which was strongly influenced by piaget's work but offers a more complex approach. He used moral dilemmas instead of moral comparisions in order to devise his theory and studied children, adolecents and young adults. Kholberg concluded that individuals go through stages of moral development in sequence. A stage can't be missed and a person cannot regress back to a previous stage.

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The Heinz dilemma

Heinz's wife is dying of cancer and there is a cure but it costs $2000 to buy yet only $200 to make. Heinz tried to borrow money off everyone but only raised $1000. He told the druggist and asked him to sell it him for that and he would ay him back later but the druggist said no. Heinz got desperate and broke into the store to steal the drug for his wife. Was Heinz right to steal the drug?

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Stage 1 (punishment & obedience (heteronomous) sta

(7 and under) Children accept moral standards, as long as to do so is personally advantageous (hedonistic). They will follow rules to avoid punishments. The see stealing as wrong because authority says it is and they will be punished. Example of answer to the Heinz dilemma; Should - "If he lets his wife die, he'd get in trouble." Shouldn't - "He'd get caught and sent to prison." This stage is in Level 1 - Preconventional Morality

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Stage 2 (Instrumental/reward stage)

Children will follow rules to obtain rewards. What is right or wrong is determined by what other people want and what brings rewards. Other peoples needs are only important if there is something to be gained in return. Example of answer to the Heinz dilemma; Should - "His wifre needs it to live and he needs her companionship" Shouldn't - "He might get caught and his wife would probably die before he got out of prison, so it wouldn't do much good." This stage is in Level 1 - Preconventional Morality

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Stage 3 (Interpersonal/'good boy-nice girl' stage)

(13 - 16) Children have started to internalise moral standards. Role models are involved with this. Base what is right by the standards they have learnt from others. Thier choice of morals is based on a desire to gain approval or avoid the disproval of others. They are largely influenced by family. Example of answer to the Heinz dilemma; Should - "Society expects a loving husband to help his wife, regardless of the consequences." Shouldn't - "He'll bring dishonour on his family and they'll be ashamed of him." This stage is in Level 2 - Conventional Morality.

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Stage 4 (Social conscience/law & order stage)

Choice of morals is now based upon the need to maintain law and order. It is about doing your duty and wanting to contribute to society, You realise that society protects the rights of individuals so society must be protected by the individual. Example of answer to the Heinz dilemma; Should - "If people like the druggist are allowed to get away with being greedy and selfish, society would eventually break down." Shouldn't - "If people are allowed to take the law into thier own hands, regardless of how justified an act might be, social order would soon break down." This stage is in Level 2 - Conventional Morality.

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Stage 5 (Social contract stage)

(Mid 30's) Morality is based on abstract self-defined princiles that may or may not be in line with the morals of the times. You respect laws and understand that they protect the rights of both society and individuals but believe that sometimes individual rights can over rule these laws. Life is more sacred than any law. Example of answer to the Heinz dilemma; Should - "The law isn;t set up to deal with circumstances in which obeying it would cost a human life." Shouldn't - "Although he couldn't be blamed if he did steal it, even such extreme circumstances dont justify a person taking a law into thier own hands." This stage is in Level 3 - Postconventional Morality.

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Stage 6 (Universal ethical prinicples stage)

The most important judge of what is moral is a persons own conscience which should operate along certain universally held principles. You would put your own life at risk because of belief in principles seen to apply to all humanity, e.g. Nelson Mandela. Example of answer to the Heinz dilemma; Should - "When a choice is made between disobeying a law and saving a life, one must act in accordance with the higher principle of preserving a life." Shouldn't - "He must consider other people who need it just as much as his wife. By stealing the drug he'd be acting in accordance with his own particular feelings with utter disregard for the values of all the lives involved. This stage is in Level 3 - Postconventional Morality.

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STUDY - Kholberg et al (1983)

Aim - To investigate moral development over 20 years Method - 58 males were seen when they aged between 10 and 16 years old. Interviews (clinical method) were conducted every 4 years about the same imaginary dilemmas. The answers were scored using a standard scoring system. Results - Participants progressed through Kholberg's stages in the predicted order, with no-one skipping a stage and only 4% returning to a lower level. Scores were related to age, IQ and education. Conclusion - It was concluded that Kholberg's stages of moral development exist and that they occur in sequence. Evaluation - The study is longitudinal and so is valuble research. Small sample size - generalisation may be a problem. Social desirablilty bias and demand characteristics may have meant that participants gave answers that they thought they should give, although justification for thier choices had to be given, making this less likey. Qualitative information. People with low IQ may have found it difficult to articulate what they want to say.

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Cross-cultural Validity

Kholberg's stages of moral development demonstrate that all children move from an emphasis on rewards and punishment to internalisation of social norms and personal codes. However, not all cultures base these codes on Western values of individual freedom and justice. Cultures that see care and the social group important may appear to be at a lower stage than individualistic cultures. Lee et al (1997) investigated influence of cultural values and norms on the understanding of lying by studying Chinese and Canadian children. It was concluded that, in some situations, the cultural norm of modesty in China could overrule childrens' beliefs about lying.

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Evaluation of Kholberg's theory of moral developme

Kholberg created a complex coding system to measure response to his dilemmas which has been simplified however a high level of agreement between coders has been reported, suggesting there is high inter-rata reliability. The moral dilemmas involve hypothetical situations therfore lack ecological validity. Walker (1987) found real life dilemmas equalled in 66% of children being at the same stage of moral development as had been suggested by Kholberg. The predictive validity of participants' responces has also been questionned - Blasi (1980) "Talk is cheap". There is evidence of people being at more than one stage at a time and regressing to a previous stage - Kholberg may have overlooked the complexity of moral development. (Turiel (1983) - moral domains rather than stages) Kholberg's scoring system has been critisied for reflecting western values of individual freedom and choice meaning cultures that value socail groups (collectivists) may score at lower stages.

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