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Kohlberg: Stages of Moral Development Chart Cheat Sheet (DRAFT) by [deleted]

Stages of Moral Development Chart

This is a draft cheat sheet. It is a work in progress and is not finished yet.


Lawrence Kohlberg's stages of moral develo­pment was adapted from Piaget Stages. According to the theory, moral reasoning develops in six stages, each more adequate at responding to moral dilemmas greater than the prior.

Stages of Moral Develo­pment

Stage Name
Pre-Co­nve­ntional Morality
Obedience or Punishment Orient­ation
This is the stage that all young children start at (and a few adults remain in). Rules are seen as being fixed and absolute. Obeying the rules is important because it means avoiding punish­ment.
Self-I­nterest Orient­ation
As children grow older, they begin to see that other people have their own goals and prefer­ences and that often there is room for negoti­ation. Decisions are made based on the principle of "­What's in it for me?" For example, an older child might reason: "If I do what mom or dad wants me to do, they will reward me. Therefore I will do it."
Conven­tional Morality
Social Conformity Orient­ation
By adoles­cence, most indivi­duals have developed to this stage. There is a sense of what "good boys" and "nice girls" do and the emphasis is on living up to social expect­ations and norms because of how they impact day-to-day relati­ons­hips.
Law & Order Orient­ation
By the time indivi­duals reach adulthood, they usually consider society as a whole when making judgments. The focus is on mainta­ining law and order by following the rules, doing one's duty and respecting authority.
Post-C­onv­ent­ional Morality
Social Contract Orient­ation
At this stage, people understand that there are differing opinions out there on what is right and wrong and that laws are really just a social contract based on majority decision and inevitable compro­mise. People at this stage sometimes disobey rules if they find them to be incons­istent with their personal values and will also argue for certain laws to be changed if they are no longer "­wor­kin­g". Our modern democr­acies are based on the reasoning of Stage 5.
Universal Ethics Orient­ation
Few people operate at this stage all the time. It is based on abstract reasoning and the ability to put oneself in other people's shoes. At this stage, people have a principled conscience and will follow universal ethical principles regardless of what the official laws and rules are.