- Term Papers, Book Reports, Research Papers and College Essays

Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development

Essay by   •  May 29, 2019  •  Research Paper  •  1,539 Words (7 Pages)  •  1,002 Views

Essay Preview: Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development

Report this essay
Page 1 of 7


Music was well accepted by most of the world wisdom to be functioned as a vehicle for connecting and integrating the physical and spiritual realms (Berendt, 1987; Reck, 1977; Tame, 1984). The transformational quality of music as addressed by Aigen (1991) makes it stand in the intersection of our inner and outer world and makes music therapy possible in working with intrapsychic conflict, healing our body/ mind split, and reconnecting us with the transpersonal realm.

As observed by Clark (1999), in a developmental perspective it is useful to have a theory integrating the different ‘lines of growth’ described by well-known theories. In this essay, we will firstly discuss about the strength and weakness of Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development and then how it influences the music theory practice in the dealing with moral cognition/ judgment in the aspects of helping the understanding the moral growth across lifespan.

Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development

Kohlberg conducted researches on 58 male participants at a regular interval for 20 years. Several narratives with follow-up questions were presented to the participants to access their level of moral thinking, in which the most well known one is Heinz dilemma. According to the responses, Kohlberg classified human’s moral reasoning into three levels with two substages in each level: preconventional (substages: (1) obedience and punishment and (2) individualism and exchange); conventional (substages: (3) good interpersonal relationships and (4) maintaining social order) and postconventional (substages: (5) social contracts and individual rights and (6) universal principles). It was found by both Kohlberg and Colby, Kohlberg, Gibbs, and Lieberman (1983) that each person passes through particular stages of moral development in a predictable and sequential order while cognitions at each advancing stage will replace the less developed one. Kohlberg (1973) also stated that logic and morality develop through a stage process in which each stage is more stable and more sophisticated in its approach than the previous stages.


In prior to Kohlberg, there were in fact quite a number of psychologists doing researches and developing theories and models of moral development. Freud (1962) and Skinner (1938) focused on the external force about the struggle between inner and outer self, and the shaping of one’s moral development, while Piaget (1965) focused more on individuals, and social cognition.

Although Jean Piaget (1896– 1980) studied cognitive development, which included thinking and how one perceives the world, he did not specifically study morality.

The method focused on the reasoning behind the judgement which gave greater insight into moral development

Written by the founder of psychoanalysis, Freud 1962 proposed the existence of a tension between the needs of society and the individual. According to Freud, moral development proceeds when the individual’s selfish desires are repressed and replaced by the values of important socializing agents in one’s life. By a proponent of behaviorism, Skinner 1938 similarly focused on socialization as the primary force behind moral development. In contrast to Freud’s notion of a struggle between internal and external forces, Skinner focused on the power of external forces (reinforcement contingencies) to shape an individual’s development. While both Freud and Skinner focused on the external forces that bear on morality (parents in the case of Freud, and behavioral contingencies in the case of Skinner), Piaget 1965 focused on the individual’s construction, construal, and interpretation of morality from a social-cognitive and social-emotional perspective. To understand adult morality, Piaget believed that it was necessary to study both how morality manifests in the child’s world and the factors that contribute to the emergence of central moral concepts such as welfare, justice, and rights. Interviewing children using the clinical interview method, Piaget 1965 argued that young children (ten years of age and younger) were focused on authority mandates, and that with age children become autonomous, evaluating actions from a set of independent principles of morality. Kohlberg 1963 expanded upon Piagetian notions of moral development. While they both viewed moral development as a result of a deliberate attempt to increase the coordination and integration of one’s orientation to the world, Kohlberg provided a systematic three-level, six-stage sequence reflecting changes in moral judgment throughout the lifespan. Specifically, Kohlberg argued that development proceeds from a selfish desire to avoid punishment (personal), to a concern for group functioning (societal), to a concern for the consistent application of universal ethical principles (moral). Following Kohlberg 1963, Turiel 1983 argued for a social domain approach to social cognition, delineating how individuals differentiate moral, societal, and psychological concepts from early in development throughout the lifespan. Turiel contrasted moral rules with societal rules, which were defined as regulations that are established by consensus to make groups function smoothly. The social domain approach provides a model for an expansive line of research on moral development including topics on culture, peer and parent-child relationships, and developmental acquisition. Since the 1970s researchers have expanded the field of moral development, covering concerns regarding the relation between children’s morality and aggression, theory of mind, prejudice, emotions, empathy, peer relationships, and parent-child interactions (see Killen and Smetana 2015 for a review).


Although Kohlberg has provided a based framework for clinical practitioners and therapists for the understanding of what stage of moral development clients are up to, weakness and limitations exist in his model, and will be discussed as below:-

1. Lack of gender consideration/ relational perspectives




Download as:   txt (10.1 Kb)   pdf (45.7 Kb)   docx (10.9 Kb)  
Continue for 6 more pages »
Only available on
Citation Generator

(2019, 05). Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development. Retrieved 05, 2019, from

"Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development" 05 2019. 2019. 05 2019 <>.

"Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development.", 05 2019. Web. 05 2019. <>.

"Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development." 05, 2019. Accessed 05, 2019.