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Moral Development


• In groups of 3 or 4
• Will be given a moral dilemma
• Discuss in your groups what you
would do in your specific situation
Who is Lawrence Kohlberg?

• He was a professor at Harvard University in the 1970s

• Became well known for his work in moral education
• He believed people gradually progressed through moral
reasoning (ethical behaviour)
• Stage theorists – beliefs influenced by Piaget
• Morality begins at the age of 12
His Method of Study

• Participants – 72 boys aged 10-16 from Chicago

• Longitudinal study – 3 yearly intervals for 20 years
• Each boy was given a 2 hour interview based on 10 dilemmas
• Kohlberg wanted to know WHY the boys thought the actions were
right or wrong
• Result – theory of moral development divided into 3 levels and 6
sub stages
Level 1: Pre-Conventional Morality

Individual’s decisions about right & wrong relate to rewards &

• STAGE 1: Obedience and Punishment Orientation
• The concern is for self – “Will I get into trouble for doing (or not
doing) it?”
• Right or good behaviour is associated with avoiding punishment from
authority figures (parent)
• STAGE 2: Individualism and Exchange
• The concern is “What’s in it for me?”
• Still egocentric in outlook but with a growing ability to see things
from another person’s perspective
• Action is judged right if it helps in satisfying one’s needs or involves
a fair exchange
Level 2: Conventional Morality

Desire to please others

• STAGE 3: Good Boy/Nice Girl Orientation
• The concern is “What will people think of me?” and the desire is for
group approval
• Right action is one that would please or impress others
• STAGE 4: Law and Order Orientation
• The concern now goes beyond one’s immediate group(s) to the larger
• What is right is obeying the law of society
• One’s obligation to the law overrides one’s obligations of loyalty to
one’s family, friends and groups
• No person or group is above the law
Level 3: Post Conventional Morality

Belief in morality because it is the right thing to do

• STAGE 5: Social Contract & Individual Rights
• The concern is social utility or public interest
• While rules are needed to maintain social order, they should not be
blindly obeyed but should be set up (even changed) by social
contract for the greater good of society
• Right action is one that protects the rights of the individual
according to rules agreed upon by the whole society
• STAGE 6: Universal Principle Orientation
• Live by the golden rule
• The concern is for moral principles
• An action is judged right if it is consistent with self-chosen ethical
• These principles are not concrete moral rules but are universal
principles of justice, equality and human dignity
Carol Gilligan

• Kohlberg’s assistant
• Wrote a best selling book “In a Different Voice” to challenge
Kohlberg’s theory
• Believed Kohlberg’s results (along with other psychologists) to
be biased against women
• Her research
• Pushed cognitive developmentalists to seek cross gender
and cross cultural empirical validation for moral
• Brought attention to the ethics of care
• Women and Moral Development