Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development Essay

1389 Words Oct 16th, 2005 6 Pages
Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of Kohlberg's theory of moral development.

In this essay, following a brief outline of the theory, I will be discussing the strengths and weaknesses of Kohlberg's theory of moral development. Morality comes from the Latin word for custom. It is a behaviour that one has been accustomed to due to the laws and customs in a particular society. By the time a person reaches adulthood, they should have a good idea about personal and social behaviour (Carlson, 2004)

Kohlberg's theory of moral development was originally an adaptation of Piaget's theory which was deemed to be unreliable because it was solely based on interviews of young children. Kohlberg's theory is based on the response to a ‘moral
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Kohlberg (1975) tested his own theory with students who were given the opportunity to cheat in a test. He found that only 15% of stage 5 students cheated (post-conventional), whereas 55% students cheated in the conventional level, and 70% of students operating at the pre-conventional level cheated. This shows that when given the choice to make a moral decision in reality, people in the post-conventional level are more likely to take the ‘moral high-ground' than people functioning in the preconventional or conventional levels. This doesn't however prove Kohlberg's theory to be entirely correct. In fact no one study has shown a 100% correlation between the level of morality and actual behaviour. Nevertheless, Kohlberg's theory has stood the test of time and trial and it has a very strong significance in explaining moral development.

On the other hand, Kohlberg's theory has its critics. For example Shrewder et al (1987) found that most teenagers and adults function at the conventional level, and very few manage to progress into the latter stages of the scale. This almost deems the final three stages of the development scale ineffectual as so many people do not reach them.
Yet, the best known critic of Kohlberg's work is his co-worker Carol Gilligan (1982 & 1987). Gilligan worked with Kohlberg on his theory of moral development, yet thought there were some fundamental

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