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For nearly thirty years he has amplified his Cognitive-Developmental theory of moralisation which has now become prominent in the field of moral development and its application to moral education. Kohlberg proposed that moral difficulties motivated their own development through a fixed sequence of increasingly adaptable kinds of moral reasoning.

He conducted most of his work at Harvard University and developed his stage model in 1969.

Working through the 1950’s and 60’s using longitudinal and cross sectional studies he proposed 6 stages of development (see Appendix 1) identified through the responses of children presented with moral dilemmas. Piaget, his former tutor, proposed only 2 stages of moral development these being the Hetronomous and Autonomous stages.

He was not so much interested in the judgments made but the reasons for the judgment, differing from Piaget he saw the stages as part of cognitive development.

He was interested in how people think rather than what they think.

These reasons represent to Kohlberg the structure of judgment, centering around 10 universal moral issues or values. Piaget believed autonomous moral reasoning to occur between ages 10-12 whereas Kohlberg proposes adolescence or even adulthood.

These values are punishment, property and law, roles and concerns of affection, roles and concerns of authority, life, liberty, justice, truth and sex.

From its earliest transmission Kohlberg has not been without critics. Although his work is of unquestionable importance Peter’s (1971) warned:

“There is a grave danger that they (Kohlberg’s findings) may become exhalted into a general theory of moral development” may be seen by some to have been fulfilled.

Although Kohlberg’s work is vast, the following will look at universality, briefly at gender and morality and following this methodology.

Kohlberg’s Universality

The biggest challenge for Kohlberg’s theory is to explain how the process of self-creation and mental structures can be universal despite cultural, subcultural and environmental differences that exist in all of us.

The principles of Kohlberg’s stage 6 is of universal justice and respect for individual rights Kohlberg (1969, 1971).

Using his moral judgment interview he tried to address confounding factors of universality although latter admitted that the modal ages...

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...ate Adolescence and Adulthood: A Critique and Reconstruction of Kohlberg’s Therapy; Human Development 23, 2 pp 77-104

Holstein, C. (1976) ‘Irreversible, Stepwise Sequence in the Development of Moral Judgment: A Longitudinal Study of Males and Females; Child Development’ 47, 1 pp 51-61

Lemming, J. (1974) ‘An Empirical examination of Key Assumptions Underlying the Kohlberg Rationale for Moral Education; ERIC Document Reproduction Service Number ED 093-749

“Willhel, F. (1977) ‘The Effects of the Extent of Training on Teacher Discussion behaviours and Children’s Moral Reasoning Development; Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, Stage University of New York at Albany

Modgil, S. & Modgil, C. (1985) Kohlberg, L. Consensus and Controversy, International Masterminds Challenge, Falmer Press England

Pepperdine University

Woods, C. (1986) Journal of Social Behaviour and Personality 1996; Vol 24(4) 375-384

Wilson, R. (1995) Moral Interventions in Education Setting.

Gross. R, (1996) Psychology The Science of Mind and Behaviour.Hodder and Stoughton.
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