Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development

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A clear analysis of how a child's mind develops into maturity in the understanding of the moral rules that surround him or her can be found in Lawrence Kohlberg's stages of moral development. The theory provides a clear, systematic graduation of the logical understanding in adhering to natural law and moral principles that guide human life and morality as they grow. (Colby & Kohlberg, 2014). The theory is made up of three levels of psychological adaptation that correspond to five stages of moral growth. The first level is the pre-conventional level where the child’s morals are shaped by the dictates of the adults through punishment and consequences of failure to adhere to rules. The first stage is the obedience and punishment orientation where the morality is guided by avoiding punishment. The second stage is individuals and exchange where the child realizes that there is a diverse way of looking at what is right based on a viewpoint perspective. Therefore, they develop their morality on a personal understanding and not avoiding wrong due to punishment consequences (In Zizek, In Garz & In Nowak, 2015).

Stage three and four falls under the conventional morality level, which is mostly experienced by adolescents by internalizing the moral standards valued by the adults. Stage 3 is the development of interpersonal relationships where the child is pushed by the desire of how others view him or her. This stage is graduated by stage four which is maintaining the social order where the child develop a wider understanding of the society and the rules to be obeyed (Pollock, 2017). The last stage is stage 5, social contract and individual rights that fall under the post-conventional morality level. The person understands the criterion that although rules exist, sometimes they might not be in favor of some individuals, therefore, the need to develop ways of dealing with situations.

I critically agree with the moral development theory put forth by Kohlberg as it gives a contextual analysis that is sensible and integrative in the way different ages perceive and adhere to morals in the society. I would place myself in the fifth stage of moral development that state that the moral development is directed by the concept of social contract and individual rights. The reason for this is that the stage gives the contextual basis of my current moral status to what the theory puts forth. Based on the account that I have the required knowledge about my rights and privileges, my moral state is squarely contexted on this point. I do not employ moral observance in the context of avoiding the parental punishment of developing relationships that will give me a good view of my friends (In Zizek, In Garz & In Nowak, 2015).

My morals are guided by what the law dictates as well as the need to live by the social standards of the society. I am therefore in a position to realize what is morally right and wrong from the rights point of view as well as what is right according to societal requirements to be accepted in the societal integration. Therefore, the main reason why I place myself in the fifth stage of moral development is the reason that I can critically think and analyze situations presented to me in an understanding manner (Colby & Kohlberg, 2014). From my analysis, I can thereby decide on how to approach a situation based on the likely outcome individually or from a wider societal scope. I can, therefore, choose to ignore the law and follow my thinking in saving a situation of the stick by the law and let the social code take effect.


Colby, A., & Kohlberg, L. (2014). The measurement of moral judgment (3rd ed., pp. 1-394). Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.

In Zizek, B., In Garz, D., & In Nowak, E. (2015). Kohlberg revisited.

Pollock, J. M, (2017). Ethical Dilemmas and Decisions in Criminal Justice. (9th edition).

Cengage Learning

July 15, 2023

Life Psychology


Hero Child Development

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