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Kohlberg's stages of moral development

6 stages split over 3 levels


Kohlberg's study to create this model

sample of 72 Chicago boys aged 10-16
58 were followed up at 3 yearly intervals of 20 years
each boy was given a 2 hour interview based in 10 dilemmas
Kohlberg interested on whether they perceived the consequential action as right or wrong
found it changed as they got older


level 1

pre conventional level including stages 1 and 2
no personal moral code - shaped by our surroundings


Stage 1

obedience and punishment orientation
- child wants to avoid punishment


stage 2

individualism and exchange
- belief that different individuals have different viewpoints


level 2

conventional morality
begin to internalise moral standards of valued role models
including stages 3 and 4


stage 3

good interpersonal relationships
- want to be seen as a good person


stage 4

maintaining social order
- aware of rules in society


level 3

post conventional morality - individual judgements are based on self chosen principles
includes stages 5 and 6


stage 5

social contract and individual rights
- aware of laws


stage 6

universal principles
- adopt own set of moral guidelines


criminal offenders are classified at which stage?

pre conventional Level
associated with less mature reasoning


strength Palmer and Hollin 1998

compared moral reasoning between female and male non offenders and 126 convicted offenders finding them to have less mature moral reasoning
consistent with Kohlberg's predictions


weakness - Rest 1979

individuals do not always progress through stages
found that 1 in 14 slipped backwards