Kohlberg's theory of moral development
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What was the aim of Kohlberg's study?
To investigate whether moral reasoning changes with age
What was the story told to the P's by Kohberg during his study?
- In Europe, a woman is dying from a rare type of cancer
- Doctors identify a drug capable of saving her life
- The druggist is charging $2000 for the drug, 10 times its cost
- Heinz, her husband can only raise half of the asking price
- Heinz appeals to the druggist for a subsidy or deferred payment but is rejected
- Heinz breaks into the shop and steals the drug
What methodology was employed during Kohlberg's study?
- 72 males from Chicago aged 10-16 were given a moral dilemma
- They boys were then asked a number of questions:
- Should Heinz have stolen the drug?
- Why/Why not?
- Does he have a duty or obligation to steal it?
- Should he steal the drug if he doesn't love his wife?
- Should he steal for a stranger?
- It is illegal but is it immoral?
- Kohlberg tested the reasoning of the P's every 3 years for 20 years and categorised children to stages in moral development accordingly
What were the results of Kohlberg's study?
- Younger P's based moral reasoning on punishment or personal gain
- Older P's based reasoning on care, laws and the views of society
What did Kohlberg conclude from his study?
- There are 3 levels of moral development:
What are the features of preconventional morality?
- Children keep to rules in order to avoid punishment
- Contained within are stages 1 and 2 of moral development
What are the features of the heteronomous morality stage?
Reasoning is based on whether or not an action would be punished
What are the features of the Exchange-reward stage?
Reasoning is based on whatever benefits the individual (instrumental gain)
What is conventional morality?
- Moral values are influenced by society's rules and norms
- Contained within are stages 3 and 4
What are the features of the good boy/ good girl stage?
Judgements are based on what other people would approve or disapprove of
What are the features of the Law and Order stage?
Moral choices reflect obedience to authority and adherence to the Law
What is post conventional morality?
- Moral values are influenced by principles such as equality
- Contained within are stages 5 and 6
What are the features of the Social contract stage?
- Decisions involve the consideration of unique circumstances and basic human rights
- There is recognition that laws are not always fair
What are the features of the universal ethical principles stage?
Decisions are governed by self chosen ethical principles that are seen to be more important than the law
What was supported by the findings of Kohlberg's longitudinal study?
- The notion that moral development is age related and people pass through stages in an unchanging sequence
- Almost all P's moved through the stages in the predicted order without skipping stages or regressing
- There is little evidence for stage 6, however and it was scrapped by Kohlberg in 1975
How can Kohlberg's theory be criticised on the basis of consistency?
- People may not apply the same type of reasoning across all situations and then suddenly change to the next stage
- Evidence suggests that people don't consistently use the same type of reasoning, however higher levels gradually become the dominant mode of thinking
How can Kohlberg's theory be criticised with regards to individual differences?
- Most individuals stay at the same stage or advance a stage over a long period of time however some missed a stage or regressed
- The structural view of moral development might not account for individual differences
Why do hypothetical dilemmas pose a problem for Kohlberg's theory?
- Moral reasoning could be different for real life situations when there is more at stake
- This means moral dilemmas could lack ecological validity
What did Walker et al find in 1999?
- Emotions appear to be much more important in real life situations
- Adults and adolescents were asked to recall and discuss a real life dilemma
- P's reported feeling drained, confused and torn by temptation
What did Walker and Moran state in 1991?
- People don't have to take risks in making hypothetical judgements, whereas in real life a great deal of personal risk is involved
- In real life people tend to use reasoning that is below that used for moral dilemmas due to the risk factor
What did Snarey find in 1987?
- Some cultures have moral principles that are not covered by Kohlberg's theory
- In the more collectivist Kibbutzim of Israel, children as young as primary school age show signs of stage 5 reasoning, believing we have a duty to help others
- The Kibbutz system places an emphasis on responsibility for others as well as for themselves, this is not apparent in Western cultures
What did Clopton and Sorrell find in 1993?
Males and females use the same type of reasoning
How might Gilligan criticise Kohlberg's theory?
- Only males were studied
- Male morality is based on principles of law and justice whereas female morality is based on care and responsibility to others
- Males score more highly on dilemmas as they are biased towards justice orientation
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