Stage Theory states that there are six stages (most people never reach the
sixth stage) to moral development divided into three levels. According Pollock
(2017), the levels and stages are as followed:
Level 1 – Pre-conventional/Pre-moral with Stage 1 has an obedience
and punishment orientation and Stage 2 has an instrument and relativity orientation.
Level 2 – Conventional/Role Conformity with Stage 3 has an
interpersonal concordance orientation and Stage 4 has a law and order
Level 3 – Post-conventional/Transcending Society with Stage 5
having a social contract orientation and Stage 6 centered on universal ethical
principles (p, 91).
Kohlberg’s belief was
that from birth all humans move through these stages progressively as they age
and can never jump over a stage or move back into a stage. Although I
understand the motivation of Kohlberg’s Moral Stage Theory and I agree with the
levels and stages, I believe it to be slightly flawed in believing one model
could encompass all people.
The first flaw is its
broadness. During the time that Kohlberg was alive and studying, maybe people
had more similarities than differences. Perhaps he studied individuals of like
background and though processes. Nevertheless, it is highly unlikely that a
person growing up in a deeply religious, fairly modest home will devolve morally
along the same path as someone growing up in a home with lots of wealth and
void of moral guidance. Think about two
pre-teens charged with the same crime, under Kohlberg’s model, based on age,
they should both be sentenced the same; However, we know that doesn’t
happen. I reasonable judge will look a
surrounding factors and mental development in sentencing.
The second flaw is
the lack of mobility. Looking a Kohlberg’s model made me think back to another model
I learned in psychology class years ago, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The basic
model of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs consist of 5 stages; physiological,
safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self actualization (McLeod, 2017). In a
sense your moral development is in direct relation to your needs. As you move
up Maslow’s model, you will generally move up Kohlberg’s model. The difference is Maslow believed you could
move up and down, or even occupy more than one of his levels depending on what
is happening in your life. For example, you
have reached stage 5 of Kohlberg’s model and you’re living life as a highly functioning
moral person. In parallel you have also
reached stage 5 in Maslow’s model (self-actualization). Things in your world
are great, and then you find yourself without a job, place to leave, kids to
feed, and no help in sight. On Maslow’s
model, you would dip back to stage one, simply trying to live. But according to
Kohlberg, you would stay at stage 5. I
find that hard to believe.
believed you could not dwell in more than one of the stages at a time, I
personally feel like I go between stage 4 and 5. I’m not sure if it is my career in law
enforcement that will not let me completely leave stage 4 behind. I have had
the though process of ‘Chain-of-Command’ engraved in my head, so when in
certain setting, I will revert back to stage 4. However as I move up in the
ranks, I see myself spending the majority of my time in stage 5.
Kohlberg’s thoughts, beliefs and even research, while maybe spot on for timeframe
when it was completed, seems to be a little narrow minded. The
human race continues to evolve and knowledge is more accessible. To believe that
we all will fix into a nice little box is not realistic.