Summary of Lawrence Kohlberg's

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SUMMARY OF LAWRENCE KOHLBERG'S
STAGES OF MORAL DEVELOPMENT

Lawrence Kohlberg was, for many years, a professor at Harvard University. He became famous for his work there beginning in the early 1970s. He started as a developmental psychologist and then moved to the field of moral education. He was particularly well-known for his theory of moral development which he popularized through research studies conducted at Harvard's Center for Moral Education. His theory of moral development was dependent on the thinking of the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget and the American philosopher John Dewey. He was also inspired by James Mark Baldwin. These men had emphasized that human beings develop philosophically and psychologically in a progressive fashion. Kohlberg believed...and was able to demonstrate through studies...that people progressed in their moral reasoning (i.e., in their bases for ethical behavior) through a series of stages. He believed that there were six identifiable stages which could be more generally classified into three levels. Kohlberg's classification can be outlined in the following manner:

LEVEL STAGE SOCIAL ORIENTATION

Pre-conventional 1 Obedience and Punishment

2 Individualism, Instrumentalism, and Exchange

Conventional 3 "Good boy/girl"

4 Law and Order

Post-conventional 5 Social Contract

6 Principled Conscience

The first level of moral thinking is that generally found at the elementary school level. In the first stage of this level, people behave according to socially acceptable norms because they are told to do so by some authority figure (e.g., parent or teacher). This obedience is compelled by the threat or application of punishment. The second stage of this level is characterized by a view...
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