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HONORS OBSERVATION Essay

Gina Geraci May 30, 2002Human Development I47/260 (202&301) HONORS OBSERVATION Essay This paper investigates the nature of moral dilemma using LawrenceKohlberg’s cognitive developmental theory of moralization (Reimer, Joseph)applied to a field observation that I conducted with an eleven-year-oldgirl and a twenty-seven year old man. I begin by considering theinspiration of Kohlberg’s theory; Swiss cognitive theorist Jean Piaget.

Then, I examine Kohlberg’s six stages of moral development. Following, Iclassify my findings with the two subjects I interviewed in accordance withKohlberg’s stages. *** Jean Piaget is a recognized pioneer in the research of moraldevelopment in children (Dunlop, Ronald). “Piaget saw children as movingthrough two broad stages of moral understanding” (Text p.

394). “The firststage is heteronomous morality, which extends from about five to ten yearsof age” (Text p. 396). Heteronomous means that an individual is subject tothe external authority of another; not autonomous. Children at this stageview the consequence of an act to be of greater value than the intention ofan act. Respect for parental and adult authority and the rules imposed bythem, prevail as the child’s working model of morality (Dunlop, Ronald).

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The second stage is autonomous morality, which manifest around the ageof ten years. At this time, a transition from concrete thinking (thatmoral perspective is fixed according to adult authority) moves to a moreadvanced level of internal moral thinking. The individual at this stagerealizes “that people can have different perspectives on moral matters andthat intentions, not just outcomes, should serve as the basis for judgingbehavior” (Text p. 396). Piaget’s theory of moral development describes a general directionthat children tend to follow in the course of maturity. Nevertheless, heunderestimated the capacity of moral elasticity a child may have in moralreasoning with his accounts of children being rigid and fixed.

Hisgroundbreaking work has been replaced by a more sophisticated theory ofmoral development that surpasses the child into adolescence and followingmoral progress into adulthood by Kohlberg’s comprehensive theory of a sixstage sequence (Text p396). Kohlberg believed that people progress in their moral reasoning andthat this could be charted through six identifiable stages, which can bemore generally classified into three levels (Barger, Robert). The first is called the Pre-Conventional Level. This level issimilar to Piaget’s heteronomous stage, in which the individual isexternally controlled.

“This first level of moral thinking is generallyfound at the elementary school level” (Barger, Robert). Within this levelis stage one and stage two. Stage one is obedience and punishmentorientation. “Children at this stage find it difficult to consider twopoints of view in moral dilemma” (Text p397). They ignore the intentionsof people, and obedience is compelled out of a fear of punishment.

The second stage, instrumental purpose orientation, emphasizes self-interest. Children at this stage begin to realize that people may havedifferent perspectives in a moral dilemma, but their thinking is still veryconcrete. The satisfaction of personal needs coincides with right action;they believe that others also act out of self-interest. The second level of moral development is the Conventional Level.

Thismoral thinking is generally found in society. Individuals at this levelstill value social rules, but not for reasons of self-interest, rather theyhave a concern for the social system in which they live. They want toensure harmonious human relationships and social order. The first stage of this level (stage three) is the “good boy-goodgirl” orientation or the morality of interpersonal cooperation. “Thisthird stage. .

. is characterized by an attitude which seeks to do what willgain the approval of others” (Barger, Robert). These individuals want tobe considered trustworthy, loyal, supportive, and nice. There areconsiderations of the reciprocal relationship in terms of the “GoldenRule.

” Stage four at this level is the social-order-maintaining orientation. At this stage, “. . . the individual takes into account a larger perspective-that of societal laws” (Text p.

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398). This individual believes in the orderthat laws bring to society and these laws are vital to ensure social order. The third level is the postconventional or Principled level. “Thislevel of moral thinking is one that Kohlberg felt is not reached by themajority of adults” (Barger, Robert). Individuals at this level movebeyond the absolute righteousness of societal law and “. .

. define moralityin terms of abstract principles and values that apply to all situations andsocieties” (Text p398). Social contract orientation (stage five) is the first stage of thethird level. At this stage individuals regard laws and

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Gina Geraci May 30, 2002Human Development I47/260 (202&301) HONORS OBSERVATION Essay This paper investigates the nature of moral dilemma using LawrenceKohlberg's cognitive developmental theory of moralization (Reimer, Joseph)applied to a field observation that I conducted with an eleven-year-oldgirl and a twenty-seven year old man. I begin by considering theinspiration of Kohlberg's theory; Swiss cognitive theorist Jean Piaget.Then, I examine Kohlberg's
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HONORS OBSERVATION Essay
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