Key Points

Pre-conventional Moral Reasoning

Conventional moral reasoning

Post-Conventional Morality

Stage 1 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.

"The last time I did that I got spanked so I will not do it again."

Stage 2 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?" "If I do what mom or dad wants me to do, they will reward me. Therefore I will do it.” "you scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours."

Pre-conventional Moral Reasoning

Pre-conventional Moral Reasoning

Stage 3 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.

“I want to be liked and thought well of; apparently, not being naughty makes people like me.”

Stage 4 Law and 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.

Conventional moral reasoning

Conventional moral reasoning

Stage 5 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 this reasoning.

Stage 6 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. People have a principled conscience and will follow universal ethical principles regardless of what the official laws and rules are.

Post-Conventional Morality

Post-Conventional Morality

Lawrence Kohlberg

     (October 25, 1927 – January 19, 1987) Professor at The University of Chicago & Harvard University Having specialized in research on moral education and reasoning, he is best known for his theory of stages of moral development.

Created a new field within psychology: "moral development". Kohlberg was found to be the 30th most eminent psychologist of the 20th century.


Erik Erikson

    (15 June 1902 – 12 May 1994) Known for his theory on social development of human beings. He may be most famous for coining the phrase identity crisis. Although Erikson lacked even a bachelor's degree, he served as a professor of prominent institutions such as Harvard and Yale.

Age Virtues

infant -18 months Hopes 18 month-3 years Will 3-5 years 5-13 years 13-21years 21-40 years 41-65 years Purpose Competence Fidelity Love Care

Psycho Social Crisis Significant Relationship Existential Question Examples

Trust vs. Mistrust Autonomy vs. Shame & Doubt Initiative vs. Guilt Industry vs. Inferiority Identity vs. Role Confusion Intimacy vs. Isolation Generativity vs. Stagnation Ego Integrity vs. Mother Parents Family Can I Trust The World?

Feeding, Abandonment Is It Ok To Be Me?

Toilet Training, Clothing Themselves Is It Ok For Me To Do, Move and Act?

Exploring, Using Tools or Making Art Neighbors, School Can I Make It In The World Of People And Things?

School, Sports Peers, Role Model Who Am I? What Can I Be?

Social Relationships Friends, Partners Can I Love?

Romantic Relationships Household, Workmates Can I Make My Life Count?

Is It Ok To Have Work, Parenthood


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Thinking About Psychology The Science of Mid and Behavior (Second Edition) hlberg stages_of_psychosocial_development