Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development
Lesson 12 Essay
Rio Salado College
August 08, 2008
Lesson 12 Essay Level One: Preconventional Moral Reasoning
Level One of Kohlberg’s theory of moral reasoning is called Preconventional Moral Reasoning. It is called “preconventional” because people at this stage are not able to understand the social mores and rules of good and bad or right and wrong in their particular society. The preconventional level is characterized by behavior which is motivated by egocentrism, and manifested with the anticipation of pleasure or the avoidance of pain. At this level the individual’s moral judgments are concerned with the “self”. “Will I get into trouble for doing (or not doing) it”? Good behavior is associated with avoiding punishment. Typically, “preconventional thinking” occurs as children reach elementary school age. The Preconventional Level includes Stage One, and Stage Two. Stage One includes a “punishment and obedience orientation”, and Stage Two, the “instrumental – relativist orientation”.
In Stage One morality is as simple as obeying rules because of the negative consequences of disobeying them (might makes right). Avoiding punishment through obedience to those in authority is most important. At this stage the perception of rules are fixed and absolute. This obedience however, is void of any ethical value other than to avoid punishment. There are no underlying altruistic values associated with “good behavior”. Children in this stage do what is “right” (to avoid punishment) by what they learn from their authority figures, such as parents, school teachers, or other individuals they perceive to be in charge. Sarah is an eight year old girl who has been sexually molested. Because she perceives her assailant as a person in authority and threatened to punish her if she reported this crime, she is fearful of punishment, and
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