Moral Development - Lawrence Kohlberg

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Kohlberg's Moral Development

Lawrence Kohlberg grew up in Bronxville, New York and attended handover Academy in Massachusetts. This is an academically demanding private high school. He did not go straight to college but instead went to help the Israeli cause, serving as the second engineer on an old freighter carrying European refugees through British blockades to Israel. After this Kohlberg enrolled at the University of Chicago where he scored so high on admission test that he only had to take a limited number of courses to earn his bachelor's degree. This he did in one year. He stayed on at Chicago for graduate work in psychology, at first thinking he would become a clinical psychologist. In this study he soon became interested in Piager and begins interviewing children and adolescents on moral issues. The result was his doctoral dissertation, the first rendition of his new stage theory. Kohlberg taught at the University of Chicago from 1963 to 1968 and at the Harvard University from 1968 until his death in 1987.

Many of our inner standards take the form of judgments as to what is right and what is wrong. They constitute the moral and ethical principles by which we guide our conduct. The manner in which moral judgments develop has been studied extensively by Kohlberg, through the questioning of boys seven years old and up. Kohlberg presented his subjects with a number of hypothetical situations involving moral question like the following. If a man's wife is dying for lack of an expensive drug that he cannot afford, should he steal the drug? If a patient who is fatally ill and in great pain begs for a mercy killing, should the physician agree? By analyzing the answers and particularly the reasoning by which his subjects reached their answers. Kohlberg determined that moral judgments develop through a series of six stages. The Children in the two stages of what he calls the preconventional level base their ideas of right and wrong largely...
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