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Lawrence Kohlberg Research Papers

Traditionally, theories surrounding the moral development of a child rest largely on a child’s ability to understand values and virtues. However, Lawrence Kohlberg suggests that one’s moral reasoning follows a developmental sequence of sorts, with decreasing ego-focus as the hallmark of progress through the levels. Thus, according to Kohlberg, it is beneficial for teaching children on the basis of their development rather than the ability understand the complex nature of virtues.

Lawrence Kohlberg

Kohlberg and Moral Development

Lawrence Kohlberg sought to explain the growth of conscience in children. Taking largely from Piaget’s theories of cognitive development, Kohlberg focused on qualitative changes in how children think. The strength in Kohlberg’s theory rests in the following:

  1. Kohlberg's theory is based in Jean Piaget’s cognitive development theory.
  2. The true value of Kohlberg’s moral development theory is that it refined Piaget’s theory.
  3. Kohlberg's moral development theory reconciled some of the differences between developmental theories that focused on morals rather than virtues and natural understanding of principles rather than cognitive development.

Kohlberg's Theory

Kohlberg, like Piaget, also validated his theory by not seeing little children as “mini adults” and recognizing that they go through stages of development morally. A child grows from stage to stage through schemas, whereby he or she adapts to experience, assimilates that experience, and accommodates the change in perception. Jean Piaget developed the theory of cognitive development in opposition to how human growth was viewed at the time.  The general view of children was that they were little versions of adults.  Piaget begged to differ, and devised his theory which contends that children’s thought processes are qualitatively different than adults’.

  1. The first stage of cognitive development is sensorimotor (0-2 years).  Intelligence is based in motor activity. 
  2. The second is pre-operational (3-7 years).  Intelligence in this stage is intuitive in nature. 
  3. The third is concrete operations (8-11 years).  This form of intelligence is logical, but dependent on concrete references. 
  4. Finally, a child reaches formal operations (12-15 years).  Intelligence has reached the level where a child can think abstractly. 

This is a broad overview of the theory, but in fact, each stage has many detailed structural forms to account for individual differences in children.

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