Kohlberg`s Theory of Moral Dilemma

Kohlberg`sTheory of Moral Dilemma


Stage: 1

Individuals practice high obedience to avoid punishment

Moral decisions are highly influenced by egocentricity

They break rules if they are sure they will not get caught

Stage: 2

Individuals are interested with taking action in exchange of favors

They cannot assist other people who are in need because they give personal satisfaction high priority


Stage: 3

Good boy/girl

Individual’s decision are determined by the things that will please others

They focus on maintaining good interpersonal relationships

Stage: 4

Law and order

Individuals are keen on fulfilling societal moral expectations

They view existing regulations as fixed and unchangeable


Stage: 5

Social contract

Individuals understand that regulations are social principles that can be adjusted as desired

Stage: 6

Universal ethical principle

Remain focused on a few flexible principles that lead someone to behave in a given way.

Individuals are guided by their internal desires

Atpremoral level, the girl accepts to drop out of school and look afterher siblings as her parents wish however, the decision is againsther desires. She accepts to frustrate her desires since she wants tomaintain perfect interpersonal relationship with her parents. On theother hand, egocentricity dominates the girl’s ego such that shemay disagree with her parents. Her focus is on issues that would giveher benefits in life (Murphy &amp Gilligan, 1980). Furthermore, shemay accept to drop out of school for the requested period, but shehopes to continue with her education secretly as she hopes herparents will not discover her secret and publish her (Power, 2008).

Second,the girl can obey her parents’ request if she wants them to giveher favors such as paying her school fees (Shaffer, 2009).Nevertheless, she might also decline quit school and look after hersiblings because she gives priority to her personal desires. Her maingoal is studying, so she might refuse to obey her parents and followher academic dream (Kail &amp Cavanaugh, 2013).

Atthe third level, the girl readily quits school because she wants todo a thing that will please other people such as neighbors, parentsand her siblings. The motivation for pleasing and satisfying theneeds of others supersede personal desires. The main achievement inthis stage is striving to achieve the desired ambition (Power, 2008).However, the girl may also decline to quit school in case her parentsor any other person disapproves his decision. Individuals at thisstage mainly aim at earning compliments and appreciation (Reed,1997).

Fourth,the girl may accept to look after her siblings because it is asocietal expectation and a moral value. This implies that sheaccomplishes her personal desire in order to accomplish societyexpectations (Reimer et al., 1990). Nevertheless, she may fail tocomply with her parents’ request because it is against the law touse child labor. Many countries have policies that prevent parentsfrom denying their female children education so that they can work astheir nannies (Kail &amp Cavanaugh, 2013).

Fifth,the girl may drop out of school and look after her siblings for agiven time because she has a social contract with her parents. She isobliged by culture and relationship to obey her parents’ requests(Reed, 1997). Nevertheless, the girl may also decline to edit thesocial contract in a way that she would get an excuse for failing toobey her parents (Shaffer, 2009).

Lastly,the girl may accept to drop out of school and look after her siblingsbecause she could be focused on given versatile principles that sheanticipates will benefit her in the future. For example, she mayaccept the task because she expects her parents to provide her schoolfees for continuing her education in the future (Kail &ampCavanaugh, 2013). Furthermore, the acceptance may also be influencedby the desire to learn childcare skills. On the contrary, she mayrefuse to quit school and take care of her siblings because shebelieves that her parents can adjust their programs or even workpolicies that would enable them to work and take care of the otherchildren without taking the girl out of school. For example, they canhire a nanny or take the children to a daycare center (Reimer et al.,1990).


Kail,R. V., &amp Cavanaugh, J. (2013). HumanDevelopment: A Life-Span View (6th ed). Belmont:Cengage Learning/Wadswort

Reimer,J., Hersh, R. H., Paolitto, D. P., &amp Hersh, R. H. (1990).Promotingmoral growth: From Piaget to Kohlberg.Prospect Heights: Waveland.

Murphy,J.M. &amp Gilligan, C., (1980). Moral Development in LateAdolescence and Adulthood: a Critique and Reconstruction ofKohlberg’s Theory. HarvardUniversity, Cambridge, Mass. Publication,23 (2), 77-104.

Shaffer,D. R. (2009). Socialand personality development.Australia: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.

Power,F. C. (2008). Moraleducation: A handbook.Westport, Conn: Praeger.

Reed,D. R. (1997). FollowingKohlberg: Liberalism and the Practice of Democratic Community.University of Notre Dame Press.