Lawrence Kohlberg


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Lawrence Kohlberg who was born in Bronxville, New York, was a psychologist of the Jewish American origin. He is well known for his research studies concerning theory stages involved in moral development. A summary of Kohlbergs research findings on moral development theory will be presented below. Kohlbergs key objective was to come up with a theory to account for development of moral deduction.

According to his findings, moral deduction comprises of six steps in three varying levels. Kohlbergs proposition was that there was a continual moral development that lasted for an entire lifecycle of a person. The methodology that was employed by Kohlberg in his research studies was interviews and research on young children. Children were required to identify moral reasoning behind a given number of ethical dilemmas. His theory holds the view that the foundation of ethical behavior is moral thinking (Detlef, 2009).

According to the findings obtained, the first stage of moral reasoning is known as the reconvention morality whose first stage is punishment and obedience. This stage was witnessed mostly in young children who perceived rules as mere absolute and fixed entities. Individualism and exchange is the second stage, where children’s judgment relied on the way individuals needs were fulfilled. The second level of reasoning is known as conventional morality that has interpersonal relationships as the third stage.

The third stage entails acting on the basis of social prospect and duties. The fourth stage is that of maintaining social order whereby individuals who are at this step start taking consideration of the general society when making decisions or judgments (Kincheloe and Horn, 2008). The third level is post conventional morality that comprises of stage five and six of moral reasoning. Stage five is referred to as individual rights and social contract, whereby people start to make explanations regarding varying opinions, values and beliefs of different individuals.

The final stage is that of universal principles, whereby the moral thinking is based on general ethical rules and complex thinking. This stage is characterized by adherence to inner justice principles regardless of whether they conflict with rules and laws or not (Kincheloe, 2008). Kohlbergs findings can be applied in the field of psychology through encouraging people to move and develop to a higher step of moral thinking. Development does not only entail increase in insight but it also entails the qualitative transformation in the ways of reasoning.

Psychological determination of an individuals level of thinking can be done by presenting different types of moral dilemmas and asking individuals to account for the appropriate actions to take (Detlef, 2009). An individuals form of thinking can be used to account for the specific actions that that individuals is involved in. As a drug treatment specialist, Kohlbergs finding would enable one to make logical decisions based on high-level thinking when faced with ethical dilemmas.

There are numerous ethical issues surrounding the health profession and to come up with morally upright solutions for these issues, it is essential to apply a form high level reasoning. A case presented by Kohlberg on Heinz steals the Drugis applicable to drug treatment profession. This case could be used as a guide to solving dilemmas encountered within the profession.


Detlef, G. (2009). Lawrence Kohlberg-An Introduction. Barbara Budrich

Kincheloe, J. L., & Horn R. A. (2008). The Praeger handbook of education and psychology, Vol 1. Greenwood Publishing Group

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