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Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development

Based  on your readings for this week write a response in at least 250-300 words to the following prompt:

Chapter 7 introduces us to Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development. A provocative question is whether the system of law enforcement should, on any level, make distinctions between crimes motivated by more or less moral interests. For example, should we consider persons who violate the law for moral reasons less reprehensible and thus less legally blameworthy than others? Consider and answer the questions regarding the following hypothetical cases involving law-breaking behaviors. Which, if any, of these behaviors are immoral? Why? Based on Kohlberg’s model, at what level and stage of moral development would you place the person(s) in the following scenarios?

  • A recently laid-off husband and father of five steals several food items from a local grocery store to feed his hungry children.
  • A concerned mother drives 80 miles-per-hour in a 55-mile-per-hour zone to get her child to the hospital. The child has 104 degree fever.
  • Two officers respond to the scene of a reported robbery at a convenience store.  While the first officer is interviewing the victim, the second officer is observed by the first officer taking candy without paying for it. The first officer does not say anything.

Now consider the following legal behaviors. Which, if any, would you consider to be immoral? Why? Given Kohlberg’s model of moral development, at what level and stage would you place the actor in question?

  • Passing by a dark alley late at night, a young man witnesses what appears to be a rape in progress. As he is unsure what is happening and somewhat afraid to get involved, he chooses to simply continue on his way.
  • A young couple has managed to accumulate $50.00 worth of late charges at a local video store. Upon their next visit, the store manager informs them that there has been a computer malfunction, resulting in the store losing track of all late charges on customer accounts.  The manager asks them if they had any outstanding charges, to which the couple replies, “No.”

Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development

Kohlberg instituted the utilization of dilemmas to perceive the ethical choices. As individuals, we all face life-shaping ethical choices. Some of the most important decisions we as individuals face in life involve ethical or moral questions. Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral development Punishment and Obedience, Instrumental Purpose and Exchange, Interpersonal Expectations and Conformity, Law and Order, Social Contract/Rights, Universal Ethical Principles (Williams & Arriago, 2012, pg. 129)

The first scenario based on a father and hungry children. This scenario comes under the first stage of the Kohlberg’s Moral development model Pre-Conventional (Individualism, Instrumentalism, and Exchange) as he is doing what he found best on individual basis. The second situation based on the driving of a mother for her sick child. The scenario best fit in the stage two named Conventional. The model stated that the “Good Boy/ Girl” as the role played by the mother is natural and according to the behavior and nature. The officers are the basic parts that are bound in rules and regulations. This stage also comes under the definition of Conventional. But this comprises the point 2 of this stage that is known as “Law and Order”. The responsibility and the obligations related with the law should be implemented here (Barger, 2000).

I consider the first situation of the actor situation is immoral and unethical as someone needs help and you are neglecting as you don’t know it properly. Kohlberg’s Model has a stage named as Post-Conventional and in this stage point five answer this situation. The social connection is necessary to make things happen on legal grounds.  In the second situation the stage of Post-Conventional and the point of Principled Conscience are applied here, as the couple replied to no to the conscious situation. They obliged to a debt but they refused to protect individual rights. 


Barger, Ph.D, R. N. (2000). KOHLBERG'S THEORY OF MORAL DEVELOPMENT - California …. Retrieved July 31, 2014, from www.csudh.edu/dearhabermas/kohlberg01bk.htm

Williams, C. R., & Arriago, B. A. (2012). Ethics, crime, and criminal justice (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

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