Stages of Moral Development

I can’t leave the meaningful recent posts on our Morality Need, without addressing the important topic of moral development. Harvard University professor Lawrence Kohlberg is notably known for his pioneering research on the various levels, stages, and ages of human moral development. Kohlberg constructed a cognitive developmental model that gives focus into a person’s perception of morality, and from those perceptions it suggests what behaviors are displayed at the various levels, stages, and ages:

Level I (Stage 1-2) Moral Development for an adult at this level is that of  the  anti-social person; the sociopath. The ability to have empathy for another human being is extremely limited. Only fear of punishment will keep such a person in line. Darkside morality predominates. Level II (Stage 3-4)   Moral Development for an adult at this level is one of normative development.  It is development of cultural conformity.  Karmic Rule (act-react) morality is present. Golden Rule (passive) morality is present. A morality of  giving and receiving can be present in some form at this level. Grayside morality predominates. Level III (Stage 5-6)  Moral Development for an adult at this level comes from conscience, guilt, and true intention. Actions  are based on one’s true character.  Higher Morality is present at this level. Lightside morality predominates.

stages of moral development




2 thoughts on “Stages of Moral Development

  1. Great post on Kohlberg. One question, why do you mention sociopathy instead of psychopathy. Sociopaths have a conscience (that’s “short-circuited”) while psychopaths have none. Psychopaths do vastly more damage to the world than sociopaths do.


    1. Your view of sociopath and psychopath is accurate. I should have included psychopath. Thank you for pointing that out. In future posts I will include both. Dr. J


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