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Formative Analysis and Theory Application of Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development

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Formative Analysis and Theory Application

Collin Wimbley grew up in a small town in Geneva Idaho, just outside Wyoming. He currently lives at the Legacy Assisted Living House. This paper will go through three distinct periods of Collin's life and his progression through Kohlberg's stages of moral development. Kohlberg's theory consists of three levels, each with two stages within them. The pre-conventional level is at the base, the first stage being obedience and punishment orientation, the second self-interest orientation. The conventional level is second, with interpersonal accord and conformity with societal norms as the third stage and law and order morality as the fourth. Kohlberg asserts that the majority of adults do not make it past the fourth stage, but those who do enter the third level, post-conventional morality, have the option of aspiring to three additional stages. The fifth stage consists of the belief that no single choice is correct or absolute, but an action's morality is weighed by the context surrounding it. It also involves a genuine care for the rest of society. In the sixth stage moral reasoning is based on abstract logic using universal ethical principles. Kohlberg also asserted that a seventh stage may exist, the transcendental morality or morality of cosmic orientation stage, which links religion with moral reasoning. The three areas of Collin's life this paper will address are childhood to adolescence, early to middle adulthood, and late adulthood.

First, childhood experiences effect on moral development. Collin's father owned a dairy farm, as well as raising all the food for the family and cattle, he milked the cows alongside his children daily. Hard work was a constant in his life, and from an early age he valued working for a living. While Collin was small he behaved well and worked in order to avoid punishment, the first of Kohlberg's stages. He and his six siblings, four girls and two boys, worked together until the work was done. He says that everyone, from the smallest to the biggest, took turns feeding and milking the cows, most the time without the fancy milking machines. As time went on, Collin made the transition into the second stage of development by realizing that doing what he was expected to do would benefit him, most likely through privileges and the avoidance of punishment. The community he grew up in was predominantly LDS (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). The fact that the whole town was of the same faith had a great impact on the way he was brought up. Throughout his life, Collin's family attended church every Sunday and held family home evening every Monday night. At this point in time, I believe Collin was in the first stage of the conventional level of development. The conventional level is second of three levels in moral development. This stage is characterized by an attitude which seeks to gain the approval of others. Collin held to these values in order to gain acceptance in his community. All of his friends had the same standards to follow and their childhood activities consisted of ward and stake events, so by following the same moral codes as they did, he was viewed by others as a good person.

Second, early adulthood. While his brothers and sisters all left home after high school, Collin was interested in farming and stayed on the farm. He served a two year LDS mission to the North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia area in 1950-1952. His actions in this instance portrayed several different stages on the moral ladder. When asked why he went on a mission he had several reasons, which all fit into different categories. One reason was the probability of marrying the type of girl he would like to. This motivation is seen on the second stage, acting in a moral way in order to attain personal gain. Another reason for going on a mission is because it was expected and because he believed it was the right thing. The fact that it was expected plays back into Kohlberg's third stage, and doing it because it was the right thing to do can be placed at the fourth

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