An Overview of Laurence Kohlbergs Contribution to Psychology

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Lawrence Kolhberg specialized in morals and reasoning and known for his theory of stages of moral development.  He was a follower of Jean Piaget in cognitive development with moral judgment, but Piaget formed a two-stage theory.  Piaget believed that children that had not hit puberty yet had different morals than older children.  Kohlberg formed his own field of psychology off of Piaget called “moral development” where his theory had levels and in each level were multiple stages.

The first level is called preconventional morality where the child goes through obedience and punishment along with individualism and exchange.  For stage one, the child thinks that authorities have made rules that they must obey without question.  In stage two, individualism and exchange, children are starting to realize that there is not one right way to look at the world, that different people have different views, and look at punishment differently.  In stage one, the child looks at disobedience is wrong and therefore, there must be punishment while in stage two, the child just wants to avoid punishment.

The second level is called conventional morality with stage three and four called good interpersonal relationships and maintaining social order, respectively.  Around the time that a person would be going through stage three is during adolescence where morality is seen as a way of living up to expectations of one’s family and their community and having good behavior.  Good behavior was explained as having good motives, even behind a terrible action.  Where stage three looked at relationships as one on one relationships with family and friends, stage four looks at society as a whole.  Now obeying laws and listening to authority were important.  At this stage, the reasons behind their morals are further explained.

The third level is postconventional morality with stages five and six called social contract and individual rights and universal principles.  People are now considering what makes a good society and the qualities needed for a good society.  In stage five, people are realizing that there are different groups of people and they have different values, but they will all agree on certain basic rights and want some democratic procedures to be protected by.  This stage people are beginning to define the principles needed to get justice.  There are universal principles that affect everyone and based on equal respect for everyone.  In this level, people are not focused on maintaining society but want to find the principles and values needed for a good society.    

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