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Lawrence Kohlbergs Stages of Moral Development

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Preconventional Morality

Children are required to have pre-conventional morality if they have not been able to adapt to society's conventions regarding the things that are right or wrong. The child instead focuses on consequences that are external and might be a result of specific actions. Children with Pre-conventional morality try to avoid being punished at all costs. 

Lawrence Kohlberg Theory

The theory of Lawrence Kohlberg suggests that there are three levels of development of morale. Every class is further divided into two stages. The theory suggests that every person moves through all these stages in a fixed order. There is a link between moral understanding and cognitive development. The three levels of moral reasoning by Lawrence Kohlberg are Preconventional, Postconventional, and Conventional. He used the theory of Piaget to tell stories to people about ethical dilemmas. 

Lawrence Kohlberg's Post-conventional Morality

The third stage of moral development is known as Postconventional morality. It is characterized by the understanding of principles of ethics by an individual. The principles are ill-defined and abstract, and they might include human dignity, as it is crucial and the preservation of life. The judgment of an individual must be based on the principles that he chooses.  They must also be founded on individual justice and rights. Kohlberg further says that the level of Postconventional morality is the farthest people get. 

Preconventional Stage

The first stage of moral development is known as preconventional morality. It lasts until the age of 9 in a child. At this level, children generally do not have a code of ethics. Instead, they make moral decisions that are developed by the consequences of breaking their rules. Adults who have a better understanding of morals mainly shape their moral choices. For example, if a specific action leads to rewards, it is a good action, and if a particular action leads to punishment, it is a wrong action. This is an example of conventional reasoning.

Lawrence Kohlberg Moral Development

Lawrence Kohlberg developed the theory of moral development in 1958. It is a stage theory about moral development. It is based on the idea of Jean Piaget about children's righteous judgment. The view of moral development consists of three stages of moral development and is cognitive by nature. It primarily focuses on thinking that occurs when an individual decides if the behavior is correct or wrong. Therefore, theoretical emphasis is laid on the process by which an individual chooses to respond to a moral dilemma rather than what one decides or does. 

Preconventional Reasoning

The first of the three levels of moral reasoning is Preconventional reasoning. At the Preconventional level of moral development, children judge between the right and wrong things by keeping external standards in their minds rather than the internal standards. They emphasize maximizing their self-interests and avoiding any punishments. The reasoning has a cognitive-developmental approach. Two different groups of moral reasoning follow this level. 

Preconventional Level

At the level of Preconvention, morality is controlled externally. The rules that are imposed by authorities are confirmed to avoid being punished or receiving any rewards. The perspectives of the idea of the right things or the things that are wrong in a person's mind. This means that what a person finds satisfying personally will enable him to get along with satisfaction. 

Lawrence Kohlberg Stages

The theory of Lawrence Kohlberg about moral development has three stages that are further divided into two more stages. The names of the stages are pre-conventional stage, conventional and postconventional stage. The preconventional stage is the first stage and generally lasts up to the age of nine in individuals. The conventional stage is the second stage and takes place after the age of nine in a person. The post-conventional stage is the third and final stage that a person could get to regarding moral development. All three stages are regarding the outcome of morals among individuals. According to Kohlberg, the post-conventional stage is the last stage a person could get for moral development. 

Postconventional Stage

The Post-conventional level is the final level of the moral developmental theory of Kohlberg. This is the stage where individuals enter the highest level of development of their morals. The people who have reached this stage are concerned with their inborn human rights guided by the principles of their own ethical choices. During this stage, an individual's sense of morality can be defined in more values and principles. However, the theory of Kohlberg has been criticized for its biases regarding gender and culture. 

Postconventional Reasoning

An individual can move beyond the shared perspectives of his society at the Post-conventional level. Morality is generally related to the values and abstract principles that apply to every society and situation. The individual tries to attempt to take the perspectives of every individual of the society into consideration. 

Lawrence Kohlberg's stages of moral improvement comprise a variation of a mental hypothesis initially brought about by the Swiss therapist Jean Piaget. Kohlberg started work on this point while being a brain research graduate understudy at the University of Chicago in 1958 and developed the hypothesis for the duration of his life.

The hypothesis holds that ethical thinking, an important (yet not adequate) condition for moral conduct, has six formative stages, each more sufficient at reacting to moral difficulties than its archetype. Kohlberg followed the advancement of moral judgment a long way past the ages concentrated before by Piaget, who additionally guaranteed that rationale and ethical quality are created through production stages. Developing Piaget's, still up in the air that the course of moral improvement was essentially worried about equity and that it proceeded all through the singular's life, a thought that prompted exchange on the philosophical ramifications of such exploration.

The six phases of moral improvement happen in periods of pre-customary, traditional and post-regular ethical quality. For his investigations, Kohlberg depended on stories like the Heinz quandary and was keen on how people would legitimize their activities whenever they put incomparable moral issues. He investigated the type of moral thinking shown, rather than its decision and grouped it into one of six phases.

There have been investigations of the hypothesis according to a few points of view. Contentions have been made that it underscores equity to the prohibition of other virtues, like mindful; that there is such a cross-over between stages that they should all the more appropriately be viewed as spaces or that assessments of the purposes behind moral decisions are for the most part post hoc legitimations (by both leaders and therapists) of instinctive choices.

Another field inside brain research was made by Kohlberg's hypothesis, and as per Haggbloom et al's. investigation of the most prominent clinicians of the twentieth century, Kohlberg was the sixteenth most often referred to in initial brain research reading material consistently, just as the 30th is generally famous. Kohlberg's scale is regarding how individuals legitimize practices and his stages are not a strategy for positioning how upright somebody's conduct is; there ought to be a connection between the way somebody scores on the scale and how they act. The overall speculation is that ethical conduct is more mindful, reliable, and unsurprising from individuals at more elevated levels.


The pre-customary degree of moral thinking is particularly normal in kids and is relied upon to happen in creatures, in spite of the fact that grown-ups can likewise show this degree of thinking. Reasoners at this level adjudicator the ethical quality of activity by its immediate results. The pre-regular level comprises the first and second phases of the moral turn of events and is exclusively worried about the self in an egocentric way. A kid with pre-traditional ethical quality has not yet taken on or disguised society's shows in regards to what is correct or wrong yet rather centers to a great extent around outer outcomes that specific activities might bring.

In Stage one (acquiescence and discipline driven), people center around the immediate outcomes of their activities on themselves. For instance, activity is seen as ethically off-base in light of the fact that the culprit is rebuffed. "The last time I did that I got hit, so I won't repeat the experience." The more awful the discipline for the demonstration is, the more "terrible" the demonstration is seen to be. This can lead to a surmising that even blameless casualties are blameworthy with respect to their torment. It is "egocentric", lacking acknowledgment that others' perspectives are not quite the same as one's own. There is "concession to predominant power or notoriety".

An illustration of compliance and discipline-driven profound quality would be a youngster declining to accomplish something since it isn't right and that the outcomes could bring about discipline. For instance, a youngster's colleague attempts to challenge the kid to play hooky. The youngster would apply dutifulness and discipline-driven profound quality by declining to play hooky since he would get rebuffed.

Stage two (personal responsibility driven) communicates the "how might this benefit me" position, in which right conduct is characterized by whatever the individual accepts to be to their greatest advantage, or whatever is "advantageous," yet comprehended in a tight way which doesn't think about one's standing or connections to gatherings of individuals. Stage two thinking shows a restricted interest in the necessities of others, however just to a place where it may advance the person's own advantages. Subsequently, worry for others did not depend on unwavering ness or inborn regard, yet rather a "Tit for tat" attitude, which is generally depicted as remuneration, a Latin expression that implies doing or offering something to get something as a trade-off. The absence of a cultural viewpoint in the pre-ordinary level is very not quite the same as the common agreement (stage five), as all activities at this stage have the motivation behind serving the person's own requirements or interests. For the stage two scholar, the world's point of view is regularly considered ethically relative. See moreover: complementary philanthropy.


The regular degree of moral thinking is run of the mill of young people and grown-ups. To reason in a regular manner is to pass judgment on the ethical quality of activities by contrasting them with society's perspectives and assumptions. The regular level comprises the third and fourth phases of the moral turn of events. Customary ethical quality is portrayed by an acknowledgment of society's shows concerning good and bad. At this level, a singular complies with rules and observes society's standards in any event when there are no ramifications for acquiescence or noncompliance. Adherence to rules and shows is to some degree unbending, notwithstanding, and a standard's fittingness or reasonableness is only occasionally addressed.

In Stage three (sincere goals as dictated by friendly agreement), one enters society by adjusting to social norms. People are responsive to endorsement or objection from others as it mirrors society's perspectives. They attempt to be a "great kid" or "great young lady" to satisfy these hopes, having discovered that being viewed as having great advantages themselves. Stage three thinking might pass judgment on the profound quality of activity by assessing its results as far as an individual's connections, which presently start to incorporate things like regard, appreciation, and the "brilliant rule". "I need to be loved and have a favorable opinion of; clearly, not being underhanded makes individuals like me." Conforming to the standards for one's friendly job isn't yet completely comprehended. The expectations of entertainers assume a more huge part in thinking at this stage; one might feel really sympathetic if one thinks that "they have good intentions".

In Stage four (authority and social request acquiescence driven), it is essential to comply with laws, dicta, and social shows on account of their significance in keeping a working society. Moral thinking in stage four is accordingly past the requirement for individual endorsement shown in stage three. A focal ideal or beliefs frequently endorse what is good and bad. On the off chance that one individual abuses a law, maybe everybody would—consequently there is a commitment and an obligation to maintain laws and rules. At the point when somebody abuses a law, it is ethically off-base; culpability is along these lines a critical element in this stage as it isolates the awful spaces from the great ones. Most dynamic citizenry stays at stage four, where profound quality is still transcendently directed by an external power.


The post-customary level, otherwise called the principled level, is set apart by a developing acknowledgment that people are discrete elements from society, and that the person's own viewpoint might overshadow society's view; people might ignore rules conflicting with their own standards. Post-customary moralists live by their own moral standards—rules that ordinarily incorporate such essential basic freedoms as life, freedom, and equity. Individuals who display post-ordinary ethical quality view rules as valuable however variable instruments—in a perfect world standards can keep everything under control and secure basic freedoms. Rules do not outright direct that should have been complied beyond a shadow of a doubt. Since post-ordinary people lift their own ethical assessment of a circumstance over-friendly shows, their conduct, particularly at stage six, can be mistaken for that of those at the pre-traditional level.

A few scholars have guessed that many individuals may never arrive at this degree of conceptual moral thinking.

In Stage five (common agreement driven), the world is seen as holding various assessments, privileges, and qualities. Such points of view ought to be commonly regarded as extraordinary to every individual or local area. Laws are viewed as common agreements rather than inflexible declarations. Those that don't advance the overall government assistance ought to be changed when important to/that meet "the best really great for the best number of individuals". This is accomplished through larger part choice and an inescapable trade-off. Vote-based government is apparently founded in front of an audience of five thinking.

In Stage six (widespread moral standards-driven), moral thinking depends on dynamic thinking utilizing general moral standards. Laws are legitimate just to the extent that they are grounded in equity, and a guarantee to equity conveys with it a commitment to ignore unfair laws. Lawful freedoms are pointless, as common agreements are not fundamental for deontic moral activity. Choices are not reached theoretically restrictively but instead completely totally, as in the way of thinking of Immanuel Kant. This includes an individual envisioning what they would do from another's point of view, assuming they accepted what that other individual envisions to be valid. The subsequent agreement is the activity taken. In this manner activity is never a method, however consistently an end in itself; the singular demonstrations since it is correct, and not on the grounds that it maintains a strategic distance from discipline, is to their greatest advantage, expected, lawful, or recently settled upon. In spite of the fact that Kohlberg demanded that stage six exists, he thought that it is hard to recognize people who reliably worked at that level. Touro College Researcher Arthur P. Sullivan helped support the precision of Kohlberg's initial five phases through information investigation, yet couldn't give factual proof to the presence of Kohlberg's 6th stage. Along these lines, it is hard to characterize/perceive as a substantial stage in the moral turn of events.

Further Stages

In his experimental investigations of people for the duration of their life, Kohlberg saw that some had clearly gone through moral stage relapse. This could be settled either by taking into account moral relapse or by expanding the hypothesis. Kohlberg picked the last option, proposing the presence of sub-stages wherein the arising stage has not yet been completely incorporated into the character. Specifically, Kohlberg noticed a phase 4½ or 4+, a change from stage four to five, that are common attributes of both. In this stage the individual is repelled with the discretionary idea of the rule of law thinking; culpability is habitually abandoned being characterized by society to review society itself as guilty. This stage is frequently confused with the ethical relativism of stage two, as the singular perspectives those interests of society that contention with their own as being generally and ethically off-base. Kohlberg noticed that this was frequently seen in understudies entering school.

Kohlberg recommended that there might be a seventh stage — Transcendental Morality, or Morality of Cosmic Orientation — which connected religion with moral thinking. Kohlberg's troubles in acquiring experimental proof for even a 6th stage, be that as it may, drove him to underscore the speculative idea of his seventh stage.

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FAQs on Lawrence Kohlbergs Stages of Moral Development

1. What is the Theory of Lawrence Kohlberg?

Lawrence Kohlberg's theory states that a person will go through three different stages of moral development in his life. During these three stages, he will develop the ability to differentiate between right and wrong. Individuals will create a sense that will help them do more work that brings rewards and avoids work that can result in punishment. The theory has three stages in which individuals develop and change their morals.

2. What are the Stages of Kohlberg’s Theory?

There are three stages of the theory of Kohlberg. The three stages are Pre-conventional, conventional, and Post-conventional stages. The Preconventional stage generally lasts until the age of 9 among individuals. During this stage, an individual learns the initial importance of morals. The next stage is known as the conventional stage. In this stage, a person can differentiate between the right and the wrong things. Therefore, he will try his best to do the jobs that lead to rewards and avoid the positions that lead to punishments. The last stage is the Post-conventional stage. A person could get for the development of his morals to this final stage. In this stage, a person ultimately develops his moral characteristics. 

3. What are the basic tenets of Kohlberg’s theory?

The various examinations exploring moral thinking dependent on Kohlberg's hypothesis have affirmed essential fundamentals in regards to the point region. Cross-sectional information has shown that more established people will more often than not utilize higher phases of moral thinking when contrasted and more youthful people, while longitudinal examinations report "up" movement, as per Kohlberg's hypothetical request of stages. Likewise, studies have uncovered that perception of the stages is combined (e.g., assuming an individual comprehends stage 3, the person comprehends the lower stages, however not really the higher stages), and understanding of higher stages is progressively troublesome. Besides, age patterns in moral improvement have gotten diverse help. In conclusion, information supports the case that each individual advances through a similar succession of improvement; nonetheless, the paces of advancement will shift.

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