Stage Theories of Development

Topics: Kohlberg's stages of moral development, Jean Piaget, Lawrence Kohlberg Pages: 5 (1203 words) Published: July 18, 2013

1Although all psychologists agree that people change over time, they disagree considerably over how to conceptualize those changes. One group sees us as changing gradually with age; the other school of thought sees people as going through a series of abrupt changes form one stage to the next.

Those who see gradual changes generally lean more toward a “molding” view by which they interpret behavior as gradually changing, mostly due to increasing experience. Those who see stages in development typically lean toward a view in which behavior “unfolds” over time, largely due to biological maturation.

Stage theorists believe that:
the changes occurring from one stage to the next make children qualitatively different rather than quantitatively from how they were at a previous stage. All children must pass through the same qualitatively different stages in the same order. In addition, they believe that a child cannot progress to the next stage until the current one has been mastered.

Stage Theories of Moral Development
Two theorists have provided us with stage theories of moral development that are related to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development.


Theorist: Lawrence Kohlberg Born on 1927 and died on 1987

Theory: (1969) He collected data for his stage theory of moral development by presenting boys with moral dilemmas and asking for evaluations of the people and action involved.

Example of the type of dilemma used by Kohlberg:
In Europe, a lady was dying because she was very sick. There was one drug that the doctors said might save her. This medicine was discovered y a man living in the same town. It cost him $200 to make it, but he charged $2,000 for just a little of it. The sick lady’s husband, Heinz, tried to borrow enough money to buy the drug. He went to everyone he knew to borrow the money. He told the man who made the drug that his wife was dying and asked him to sell the medicine cheaper or let him pay later. But the man said, “No, I made the drug and I’m going to make money from it.” So Heinz broke into the store and stole the drug.

Did Heinz do the right thing? Kohlberg was interested in the logical process through which people arrived at their answers to moral dilemmas.

Conclusion: He concluded that we pass through the three major levels of the development of moral reasoning.

Premoral LevelConventional LevelPrincipled Level
Young children have no sense of morality as adults understand it. They make moral judgments to obtain rewards and avoid punishment Children make moral decisions on the basis of what they think others will think of them, particularly parents and other persons of authority. Because society’s rules, or conventions, state what is expected of them, persons at this level make moral decisions based on rules. At this stage, we judge actions on the basis of ethical principles rather than the consequences to us (as in the first two stages). The most advanced moral reasoning within this stage, according to Kohlberg, is based on one’s principles of morality, even if they differ from the rules of the larger community. Thus, Kohlberg sees the first two major shifts in moral reasoning as occurring at the same time as the beginnings of the preoperational and concrete operational stages in Piaget’s theory of cognitive development.

I.Preconventional4-10 years old1

2PUNISHMENT ORIENTATION (obeys rules to avoid punishment)

REWARD ORIENTATION (conforms to obtain rewards, to have favors returned) II.Conventional 10-13 years old3

4GOOD BOY/GOOD GIRL ORIENTATION (conforms to avoid disapproval from others)

AUTHORITY ORIENTATION (upholds laws and social rules to avoid censure of authorities and feelings of guilt about not “doing one’s duty”)....
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