Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development
Kohlberg's theory is divided into three levels with two stages per level.
- Each stage and level is slightly more complex and more effective than the prior.
- As children, adolescents, and adults assume more responsibility they may progress through the six stages.
- People understand their present stage, all below, and the one immediately above.
- They may revert to lower stages during stressful times.
- If a teacher or person in authority uses a control strategy at a level below the student's current level, the student will feel humiliated and may regress to that level.
Stage one (Preschool age 3-4)
Stage two (K - grade 3)
Understands neither social conventional or moral rules
Stage one is characterized by a pain-pleasure response for individual satisfaction. Control: Use of physical force for compliance. Short-term effect. Physical constraint - Physical abuse
Stage two is characterized by the attitude: I want to appear fair, but come out ahead. Control: Positive reinforcement - Negative reinforcement - Abuse.
Stage three (grades 4 - 8)
Stage four (grades 9 - 1)
Understands and embraces social coventions
Stage three is characterized by a perception of the social order as a need to please, help, or conform for the benefit of the group. Control: Peer pressure - Concern for feelings of group. Range from cooperation and working together and helping each other to ostracism and shunning or shaming a person and making s/he an outcast.
Stage four is characterized by a perception of a need or duty to obey social rules and regulations to maintain social order to have an ordered society. Control: Individual responsibility, Legal systems with an over reliance on legalism and laws carried to extremes.
Stage five (maybe grade 11-1 for a few?
Stage six (?)
Understands and embraces morality
Stage five is characterized by individuals that attempt to define moral principles as social-contracts, or legal-contracts based on an understanding of principles of justice and a democratic community. Control: Governance and sanctions based on general democratic principles: fairness, equity, toleration, freedom of thought...
Stage six is characterized by universal justice and ethical considerations that respect the dignity of individuals. Control: principled self-control.