Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development Presents Three Essay

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Kohlberg's theory of moral development presents three levels with two stages each of moral reasoning. The reason or motive for the behavior of an individual is what defines each stage (Crain, 1985). In order to come up with this developmental theory Kohlberg carried out studies using various dilemmas and finding out how the subjects responded. His main interest in the process is not a "yes" or "no" said by the subject but rather the reasoning behind the answer. This way he was able to demonstrate that people's moral reasoning progressed through a series of stages as discussed hereunder:

The first level is referred to as the "pre-conventional moral reasoning" and is typically related to children of about the age of 10 years. At this stage the individual does not internalize morals and the reasoning is externally influenced (Jeremy et al., 2000). The individual categorizes an act as good or bad depending on the consequences and in relation to the set rules, actually children at this level do not understand the rules that have been set down by others thus the name "pre-conventional," the first and second stage fall under this level.

Stage one is where punishment and obedience influence actions, at this stage moral decisions made by individuals are based on the fear of punishment. Individuals evaluate their actions not in terms of goodness or badness but rather in terms of possible punishment, and the emphasis is on obeying power (McDevitt and Ormrod, 2007). Individuals tend to behave in a way that evades punishment and whether an action is right or wrong depends on whether it is punished or not. Children within this age bracket will obey instructions because they have been told by adults and because if they don't they will be punished by the adults. For instance, a six-year-old boy will refrain from cheating in exams because he feels he will get caught and be punished by the teacher, therefore, the reasoning is that cheating in exams is bad because it is punishable.

Stage two is characterized by individual self-interest and exchange of favors. At this stage the individual determines what is right or wrong by the reward that is attached to it. McDevitt and Ormrod (2007) explain that whenever an action feels good to the individual and is also rewarding then it is categorized as good, the individual will get concerned about others' needs if they have something to gain from that and not out of loyalty, justice or gratitude. At this stage a nine-year-old boy will feel it is right to cheat in exams because he will get a better score and he is interested in getting a better score, thus, the reasoning is that cheating is rewarding and meets his self-interest, so it is good.

The second level is the "conventional moral reasoning" and this is commonly found in the society hence the name "conventional," it is typically associated with individuals between the age of ten and adolescence. With a decline in egocentrism, the individual now tends to consider others in moral reasoning. Instead of viewing morals with respect to personal consequences, the individual now considers other's ethics in making moral decisions such as others' approval, loyalty to the family, obeying the set laws, and conforming to the social order (Power et al., 1989). The individuals have achieved intermediate internalization of morals or what may be referred to as the "conventions" of the society, this level includes the third and fourth stages of Kohlberg's theory.

The first stage at this level is stage three and individuals at this stage are characteristic of seeking approval or evading disapproval. In order to determine what is right and wrong then the approval of people who are close, such as friends and family, must be considered (Power et al., 1989). Whatever pleases others is considered good while anything that others disapprove of is bad. The moral judgment of such an individual is based on the trust, care and loyalty to others. At this stage individuals tend to adopt the moral standards of those who are close to them. In this case, a fourteen-year-old boy will not cheat in an exam because he feels his parents will be ashamed of him when they get to know of it, since the parents disapprove of…[continue]

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