Kohlberg's Moral Stage Theory
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Theory > Kohlberg's Moral Stage Theory
Lawrence Kohlberg found that Piaget's stage theory was rather simplistic and
discovered that individuals mix their modes of thinking, particularly in moral
development. He developed a six stage model, broken down into three levels and
with two stages at each level.
||Sticks to the rules.
Moral judgement as avoiding punishment.
||Individualism / instrumentalism
||Concrete individual interests. Is aware of others'
Moral judgement as what serves me.
||Lives up to others' expectations in order to be seen to be
good and then has self-regard as being good.
Moral judgement as avoiding rejection by others.
||Social system and conscience
||Fulfils social duties in order to keep the social system
Moral judgement as avoiding criticism by respected authority.
||Upholds relative rules in the interest of impartiality and
welfare for all.
Moral judgement as social respect.
||Universal ethical principles
||Follows self-chosen ethical principles, even when they
conflict with the laws.
Moral judgement as personal conscience.
When working with people's values and
ethics, be aware of the stage that they are at. Work with their values, not
You may also consider displaying values that are similar to theirs, but
beware of the traps of appearing false and immoral that this can bring.
Kohlberg, L. (1986). The Philosophy of Moral Development, Harper and
Row, San Francisco