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Kohlberg’s Model of Moral Development

Kohlberg’s model of moral development is regarded as a theory that focuses on the way children develop the ethical form of reasoning. In 1958, Lawrence Kohlberg strongly agreed with Piaget’s theory of moral development, founded in 1932 in principle, but he intensely wanted to explore and further his ideas. Therefore, Kohlberg used the storytelling techniques from Piaget to tell people stories about the development of morality. Nonetheless, the concept also suggests that the primary aim of moral logic is to seek and maintain justice. Rational thinking involves applying critical analysis toward specific events that play a vital role in determining right and wrong or what to do in certain situations. In addition, the theory uses fundamental moral ideas such as deontology and utilitarianism to address the specified dilemmas.

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The theory clearly states that moral development occurs in six stages and a series of three subcategories: pre-conventional, post-conventional, and conventional. Suppose I was in the situation Heinz was facing, I would not break into the druggist laboratory to steal the drug (Carmichael et al., 2019). This is because the repercussion of stealing is a severe penalty as per the country’s laws. Based on Kohlberg’s theory, he would say I am in the first stage of his concept. This phase focuses on obedience and punishment, where an individual has to judgment weigh the good and bad outcomes that will be associated with the action. For instance, breaking into a laboratory would call for sentencing one to prison for more severe theft than the current situation.

If I were at a different stage of Kohlberg’s theory, assuming phase two, which is about self-interest, I would have broken into the druggist’s laboratory to steal the drug. At this point, my general focus is to save the woman from dying; therefore, I will make sure I access the medicine irrespective of the consequences I will face in relation to the action ((Spielman et al., 2021). Saving her life will give her the opportunity to help me after recovery from the sickness.

Heinz should have broken into the druggist’s laboratory to steal the drug. According to Kohlberg’s model, stage six covers the universal ethical principles, by stealing the medicine, Heinz would be able to prevent the woman’s death. His act of saving a life would mean giving a human being chance to live. Therefore, it means helping someone by doing the wrong can be considered morally right. Based on the post-conventional level, Heinz knows that accessing the drug without permission is against the law, but being that he has to do it, he should go ahead and have the pills.

Kohlberg’s theory has been heavily criticized for emphasizing justice and ignoring essential aspects such as culture. Personally, I strongly agree with the criticism because human judgment and reasoning are influenced by various factors, including compassion and care. For example, women tend to make a decision based on interpersonal feelings, unlike men (Goldschmidt et al., 2021). In one of Carol Gilligan’s books that is a different voice, Kohlberg’s theory is perceived as excessively androcentric

In conclusion, moral development plays a vital role in providing a more robust classification and categorization of moral reasoning. In addition, the theory prevents individuals from acting on unchecked urges and advocating for what is suitable for the individuals in society. Kohlberg’s model also focused on the moral and morality development of the children’s form of thinking as it primarily focused on the process of seeking and maintaining justice.


Carmichael, C. L., Schwartz, A. M., Coyle, M. A., & Goldberg, M. H. (2019). Classroom activity for teaching Kohlberg’s theory of moral development. The Teaching of Psychology, 46(1), 80-86. Web.

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Goldschmidt, L., Langa, M., Alexander, D., & Canham, H. (2021). A review of Kohlberg’s theory and its applicability in the South African context through the lens of early childhood development and violence. Early Child Development and Care, 191(7-8), 1066-1078. Web.

Spielman, R. M., Dumper, K., Jenkins, W., Lacombe, A., Lovett, M., & Perlmutter, M. (2021). Lifespan theories. Psychology-H5P Edition. Web.

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