What is moral development?

The Swiss psychologistJean Piaget(1) establishes a model where all morality consists of a system of rules and the essence of any morality must be sought in the respect that the individual acquires towards these rules”. (2)

On this basis, Piaget’s moral development proposes atwo-stage theory throughwhich the individual must travel on his way to moral development.

On the other hand, for psychologistLawrence Kohlberg(3), moral development theory posits thatmorality is not simply the result of unconscious processes or earlysociocultural learning, but that there are some moral principles of a universal nature, which are not learned in early childhood and are the product of mature rational judgment.

Note: From this point of view, Lawrence Kohlberg’s moral development (based on what Piaget established) makes a three-level proposal for the moral development of the individual.

What are the stages of moral development?

Below, we describe the stages of moral development from the perspective presentedby psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg(4):

1. Preconventional

In the pre-conventional stage, moral problems are approached from the perspective of the specific interests of individuals and it is developed on the basis of the following stages:

Obedience and Punishment Orientation

The first phase or stage for the process of moral development of the individual, is that the individual must submit to the rules supported by punishment, to own obedience and avoid physical harm to people and property. This obedience is meant toAvoidpunishment .

Orientation toward individualism and self-interest

In the second stage of this stage, the individual must follow the rules only according to their particular interests, they must also act to satisfy their own interests and needs and let others act in the same way.

To highlight: This act reflects individuality to satisfy one’s own interests but recognizing that other people also have interests.

2. Conventional

At this stage, Kohlberg Focuses on moral problems from the perspective of the individual as a member of society, developing in the following stages:

Orientation towards consensus and interpersonal relationships

At this stage, the individual must live in accordance with the expectations of the people around him, that is, be a good son, brother, friend, among other attributes. Kindness is important and means having good reasons for showing concern for others.

which support typical good behavior.

Orientation toward authority and social order

At this point, it is important that the person fulfills the duties with which he committed himselfand has as a rule. The norms have to be followed, except when they conflict with other social rules of a higher hierarchy. The right thing is alsoto contribute to society, group or institution.

Note: At this stage reasoning prevails and what drives this behavior is to keep the system running, with the obligation to fulfill the tasks delegated to each one.

3. Postconventional

In this phase Kohlberg focuses on moral problems, from a perspective superioror prior to society. This stage is developed in the following stages:

Orientation towards the social contract

This stage is characterized because the individual becomes Aware that people have their own opinions and valuesand is governed by socially accepted group rules, which are maintained in the interest of impartiality and are part of a social contract.

To highlight: The reason that supports this stage is the sense of obligation to the law to respect the social contract for the good of the community.

Orientation towards universal principles

At this stage, the individual must be guided by universally accepted ethical principlesand based on this, laws and social agreements are usually valid. These arePrinciples that refer to justice, equality of human rights and respect for the dignity of human beings.

You should know: The reason for this stage is that the individual believes in the validity of universal moral principles and in the personal commitment to them.

What is the importance of moral development?

People who manage to achieve optimal moral development, can distinguish between good and evil , know respect in principle for themselves and consequently for others.

On the other hand, they reason about the need for society, the existence of rules that guide the norms for coexistence and good customs , collaboration between people and fair treatment of individuals as a universal social right.

Key Findings

  • Moral development, according to Kohlberg, states that morality is not simply the resultof unconscious or learning processes.
  • For Kohlberg there are some Universal Moral Principles , which are not learned in early childhood.
  • Lawrence Kohlberg’s moral development makes a proposal of three levels: Preconventional, Conventional and Postconventional.
  • Moral development Orients UStowards social humanityand the functioning of society as a system.

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