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Lawrence Kohlberg

Theories of Life Stages and Human Development

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Lawrence Kohlberg

  • born on October 25, 1927 in Bronxville, New York
  • died on January 19, 1987
  • professor at Harvard University in the early 1970s
  • started as a developmental psychologist and then moved to moral education
  • well known for theory of moral development through research studies at Harvard's Center for Moral Education
  • inspired by Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, American philosopher John Dewey, and James Mark Baldwin
  • emphasized that human beings develop philosophically and psychologically in a progressive fashion
  • believed there was 6 stages, classified into 3 levels 

LEVEL
STAGE
SOCIAL ORIENTATION
Pre-conventional
1
Obedience and Punishment
Pre-conventional
2
Individualism, Instrumentalism, and Exchange
Conventional
3
"Good boy/girl"
Conventional
4
Law and Order
Post-conventional
5
Social Contract

Post-conventional

6

Principled Conscience

  • first level is generally found at elementary school level
  • in first stage people behave according to socially acceptable norms because they are told to do so or by some authority figure (parent or teacher)
  • obedience is compelled by threat or application of punishment
  • second stage is characterized by a view that right behaviour means acting in ones own best interests

 

  • second level is found in society
  • third stage is characterized by an attitude which seeks to do what will gain the approval of others
  • fourth stage is one oriented to abiding by the law and responding to the obligations of duty

 

  • third level Kohlberg felt is not reached by the majority of adults
  • fifth stage is the understanding of social mutuality and a genuine interest in the welfare of others
  • sixth stage is based on respect for universal principle and the demands of individual conscience

  • Kohlberg believed you could only progress one stage at a time, not "jump" stages
  • most moral development occurs through social interaction
  • discussion approach is based on the insight that individuals develop as a result of cognitive conflicts at their current stage

Lawrence Kohlberg

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