Moral Development Theory: Understanding Childhood Behaviors


Kohlberg asserts that development occurs through six stages of increasing complexity, from what “might make right decisions” to the recognition of universal ethical principles.

A lot of other theorists set out levels of criticisms against it. Kohlberg’s theory seems to be generally valid, and although males and females may analyze moral problems somewhat differently, neither sex is generally more competent at resolving moral dilemmas.

The development of moral actions, attitudes, and arguments is life long from the toddlers grabbing a toy and insisting “Mine!” to the elderly adult establishing a living will. Early childhood development IS the time most moral behavior and development occur in moral reasoning.

Lawrence Kohlberg studied the development of moral reasoning by presenting children, adolescents, and adults with a set of hypothetical stories that pose ethical dilemmas.

The stories were carefully designed to allow Kohlberg to test how children conceived and reasoned about dilemmas. That involved the conflict between human needs and the value of human life.

Kohlherg found three levels of moral reasoning: preconventional, conventional and post-conventional, with two stages at each level.

Certain answers children, adolescence, and adults gave, towards certain dilemmas, were said to he found at each stage. Preconventional puts emphasis on getting rewards and avoiding punishments.

Stage one is Punishment and Obedience orientation-at this stage the most important value is obedience to authority in order to avoid punishment, while still advancing self-interest.

Stage two is instrumental and relativist orientation–each person tries to take care of his or her own needs. The reason to be nice to other people is so they will be nice to you. Conventional puts emphasis on social rules.

Stage three maintains that good behavior is considered behavior that pleases other people and wins their praise. Approval is more important than any specific reward.

Stage four asserts that right behavior means being a dutiful citizen and obeying the laws set down by society. Postconventional in this stage puts emphasis on moral principles.

Stage five shows that one should obey the rules of society because they exist for the benefit of all and are established by mutual agreement. If the rules become destructive however, or if one party doesn’t live up to the agreement, the contract is no longer binding.

Stage six puts forth that general universal principles determine right and wrong. These values are established by individual reflection and may contradict the egocentric or legal principles of earlier reasoning.

A truly excellent teacher will manage their classroom with a variety of excellent techniques When one considers the validity of moral reasoning in the classroom, it is important to remember to treat every child the same, so that the children are viewing a moral model.

Having a reward system that includes reasonable punishment is a rather huge benefit to the children. In every classroom there is a set of rules that every child needs to obey. If those rules are allowed to be broken, students will not he able to understand the moral climate of the classroom.

It is reasonable to believe that for every action there is a reaction. When students disobey rules, there must be an applicable firm but positive reaction from the teacher.

The teacher must come up with quick statements like: “How can I help you obey the rules Sally?” Again, a truly excellent teacher will initiate modeled moral reasoning through a variety of techniques in their classroom if they desire to increase student learning, moral development, and character.


Source by Don Alexander