Kohlberg's Theory

Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development


Kohlberg’s theory of moral development was inspired by Piaget’s theories of moral values. Kohlberg (1927–1987) was an American psychologist who propounded theories of the development of moral values.

These principles are given an important place in the field of education. These ideas of his are given a high place in psychology. According to Kohlberg, the function of ethics is to make students clear the difference between right and wrong.

Whether the object or idea is ethical or immoral for the life of the students, it is determined by the development of moral values. Therefore this theory of Kohlberg is known as Kohlberg’s Moral Development Theory.

Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development

Kohlberg’s theory of moral development was a modified version of Piaget’s theory. His moral views were influenced by Piaget’s theory. According to Kohlberg, the development of morality in students is not innate.

Kohlberg presented his theory of moral development in the year 1969 and in 1981 and 1984 did the work of revising his ideas. According to Kohlberg, morals are part of the emotional nature of the students. Kohlberg used stories for his test.

He used to ask some questions to the students through these stories and through the answers obtained from those questions, he used to formulate the principles of moral development.

Example – a story by Kohlberg in which questions are asked in each teacher’s respective examinations, which is a short story –

A woman from Europe who was sick and was fighting between death and life. Her husband’s name was Hinj. According to the doctor, there is radium that can save her life.

At that time that radium was discovered by a pharmacist. The price of that medicine was very high because the pharmacist who invented it was taking 10 times more money than the money spent in manufacturing that radium. Because of this, the woman’s husband Heinz was unable to buy her.

One day Heinz went to that pharmacist and by giving some money told him – please give me that medicine so that i can save my wife’s life from disease, will pay the remaining amount soon but that pharmacist clearly refused him and replied to him – I have discovered this medicine to earn more money. I will not give you this medicine till you pay me full price for it. Hearing this, Heinz got angry and broke into his shop and stole that radium (medicine) from his shop.

Kohlberg built two questions on the basis of this story. Which he divided into two parts. which are as follows:

Moral Dilemma – According to Kohlberg, sometimes the dilemmas or problems we face in deciding between right and wrong are called Moral dilemmas.

Question – If Hinj does not steal then his wife will die and if he steals then the police will catch him and put him in jail.

Moral Reasoning – Choosing between two ideas, right and wrong.

Question – Hinj decided to steal to save his wife’s life.

Kohlberg presented his theory of moral development in three stages. He has divided these 3 stages into 6 stages. which are as follows-

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1. Pre-Conventional Stage

According to Kohlberg, this stage of moral development lasts from 4 to 10 years. At this stage the moral development of the students is negligible, that is, the child is unable to understand the difference between right and wrong at this stage.

At this age, the student chooses right and wrong out of fear of punishment and longing for reward. Kohlberg has divided this stage of moral development into two parts:

a. Punishment and Obedience – In this way, students choose the difference between right and wrong according to the behavior of others towards them, that is, if they do wrong things, they get punishment from their family members. And if they do some good work then they get to hear rewards or praise from some person.

b. Self aptitude and reward attitude – In this stage, students follow orders according to their interests and do more work so that they can get more results from doing that work.

2. Conventional Stage

According to Kohlberg, this is the second stage of the development of morality (Kohlberg Theory) which lasts from 10 to 13 years. Under this, students are more social, that is, they do such work so that they can get respect from society. At this age, the student imbibes (imitates) the level of morality of other persons.

He is able to make proper decisions by clarifying the difference between right and wrong according to the standards of other people. Kohlberg has also divided this stage into 2 parts, which are as follows:

a. Hope to be a good boy or girl – In this stage, there is competition among the students to become good, that is, in this stage they expect respect from others. Because of this, a student is always moving towards the path of becoming a good boy or girl.

b. Law and Order Orientation – In this stage, the students are aware of the law, rules, and policies and move towards following all the rules and policies. At this age, he does not disobey the policy and rules but obeys them as truth.

3. Post-Conventional Morality Stage

According to Kohlberg, this stage is the stage for children above the age of 13, it is a developed stage of morality. In which the student becomes mature in the development of morality. In this stage, students start giving prominence to their responsibilities towards society.

Kohlberg also divides this stage into 2 phases which are as follows:

a. Stage of Social Contract – In this stage, the students start adopting the rules and regulations of society. They start making appropriate changes in their personality and behavior towards society. According to this stage of Kohlberg’s theory, students begin to fully incorporate responsibilities towards social work.

b. Universal or Conscience Stage – In this stage, the student chooses such standards which are eternal truth, that is, which are suitable to the situation in each situation.

In this stage, the student, with the help of his discretion and self-reflection, chooses the decision between right and wrong. It shows the maturity of the student, in this stage, the students start following the rules and regulations according to their thinking.

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Characteristics of Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development

  1. Kohlberg places his 6 stages of universal truth.
  2. According to him, the development of moral values ​​of students takes place with the help of society.
  3. Kohlberg has divided his theory into 6 steps.
  4. According to this theory, students understand the difference between right and wrong only on the basis of morality.
  5. Kohlberg uses stories to test his questions.


Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development emphasizes the moral development of students, which helps them to decide what is right and wrong for them. This principle serves to clarify the difference between true and false.

In this article, you learn about Kohlberg’s Theory, the Stages of Kohlberg’s theory, the Characteristics of Kohlberg’s Theory, and so on. If you liked this post please do share it with your friends too.

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