Stages of Moral Development
Transcript Stages of Moral Development
Stages of Moral Development
Law and Order
Stage 1: Reward/Punishment
Right or wrong are determined by the reward or punishment that
accompanies the action.
Children associate right with “yes” actions (hug, kiss, treat, smile) and
wrong with “no” actions (scowl, sent to room, taking something away).
Good therefore, means earning a reward and avoiding punishment
(“It’s good as long as I don’t get caught”).
Basic criminal mentality.
Cheating on a test as long as there is no risk of getting caught
Not reporting hitting a parked car if no one saw it
Having sex as long as protection is used
** Many teenagers and adults operate at this
level of moral development.
Stage 2: Self-Interest
“Me First” attitude
Right is based on what makes “me” feel good (satisfied,
gratified, pleasure); wrong is based on what makes “me” feel
bad (discomfort, hurt, dissatisfied).
Basis for moral decisions is essentially selfish the needs of
others are considered only insofar as they affect the individual
(“If I do this for you, what will I get in return?”).
Reverse Golden Rule
Not “picking on” others so as not to be picked on
** Many adults will operate at this level of moral
development for the rest of their lives.
Stage 3: Pleasing Others
Right or wrong depends mainly on what pleases or displeases
“Good boy” / “Good girl” mentality
When a decision receives approval, it is right; when a decision is
disapproved, it is wrong.
“Everybody does it” / peer pressure
Highly pronounced level of morality for teenagers (acceptance).
Skipping school because friends are
Partying to be part of the “in” crowd
Having sex with boyfriend/girlfriend to “keep” them
** According to Kohlberg’s research, many adults never even reach
Stage 4: Law and Order
Right is based on obedience to the law and legitimate
Something that is legally right must be morally right.
The law mentality translates into any group or society
to which the individual belongs (ie. religion,
Limited room for individual thought process or
Ok to drink if parents approve
Ok to have sexual intercourse if parents do not mind
Stage 5: Social Contract
“What society stands for”
Looks to those generally agreed upon norms and rights
upon which society is based.
If the laws support these standards, then laws are to be
obeyed; but if laws contradict these standards, then
grounds for civil disobedience.
Laws are not norms in and of themselves; they are capable
of being changed for the sake of the greater, common
Many do not reach this stage...examples:
Vandalism at school – social concern or against school rules?
Not speeding – right to life or fear of being caught?
Stage 6: Principle
Highest level of moral development.
People operate morally based on universal
Not concrete rules or commandments, but
rather the basis of laws and commandments –
they are good in and of themselves.
Right is viewed as following one’s informed
conscience which follows guidelines that go
beyond the good of the individual or the good
of society – rooted in love and compassion
Complete respect and understanding for the
dignity of all humanity and creation.
Willing to risk punishment when seeking the
greater good; set aside self-interest.
Think About It:
People move from stage to stage of moral
growth as they mature.
No one skips stages; people move from
one to another. A person may slip back a
stage or two in certain areas of decision
making or when under stress.
Some people never move beyond Stage 1
Learning to make good choices now and
growing in Christ will help a person reach
Stage 6, which is a level of deep, personal
maturity and freedom.