Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development

Kohlberg’s theory of moral development is a stage-based model of moral maturity developed by Lawrence Kohlberg in 1958. The theory offers three levels of moral development, each of which contains two stages. Kohlberg asserts that moral development is neither the result of a genetic blueprint nor the result of conscious teaching of morality. Rather, it is a process of maturing that arises from thinking about moral issues.

Kohlberg’s theory specifies six stages of moral development, arranged in three levels.

Level I: Preconventional/Premoral

Level one is preconventional morality, wherein a person is motivated by obedience to authority. This level of moral development is commonly associated with young children and involves little thought about morality.

Stage 1: Obedience and punishment orientation

  • Morality is motivated solely by punishment and anything which is punishable is deemed wrong.

Stage 2: Instrumental relativist orientation

  • Right action is that which is instrumental in satisfying the self’s needs and occasionally others’.
  • Focuses on individualism and different perspectives, and the goal is to avoid punishment.

Level II: Conventional/Role Conformity

Moral values reside in performing the right role, in maintaining the conventional order and expectancies of others as a value in its own right.

Stage 3: Good-boy/good-girl orientation

  • Orientation to approval, to pleasing and helping others.
  • Conformity to stereotypical images of majority or natural role behavior.
  • Action is evaluated in terms of intentions.

Stage 4: Authority and social-order-maintaining orientation

  • Orientation to “doing duty” and to showing respect for authority and maintaining the given social order or its own sake.
  • Regard for earned expectations of others.
  • Differentiates actions out of a sense of obligation to rules from actions for generally “nice” or natural motives.

Level III: Postconventional/Self-Accepted Moral Principles

Morality is defined in terms of conformity to shared standards,rights, or duties apart from supporting authority. The standards conformed to are internal, and action-decisions are based on an inner process of thought and judgement concerning right and wrong.

Stage 5: Contractual/legalistic orientation

  • Norms of right and wrong are defined in terms of laws or institutionalized rules which seem to have a rational basis.
  • When conflict arises between individual needs and law or contract, though sympathetic to the former, the individual believes the latter must prevail because of its greater functional rationality for society, the majority will and welfare.

Stage 6: The morality of individual principles of conscience

  • Orientation not only toward existing social rules, but also toward the conscience as a directing agent, mutual trust and respect, and principles of moral choice involving logical universalities and consistency.
  • Action is controlled by internalized ideals that exert a pressure to act accordingly regardless of the reactions of others in the immediate environment.
  • If one acts otherwise, self-condemnation and guilt result.


Almost every CTET and State TET ( UPTET, HTET etc) question paper has questions from this topic. Refer

Previous Year Questions:

Question #1 In the context of Kohlberg’s stages of moral reasoning, under which stage would the given typical response of a child fall? “Your parents will be proud of you if you are honest. So you should be honest.”

[Child Development and Pedagogy] [CTET-2016-09]
  • Social contract orientation
  • Good girl-good boy orientation correct answer
  • Law and order orientation
  • Punishment-obedience orientation
Question #2 Kohlberg has given

[Child Development and Pedagogy] [CTET-2016-02]
  • the stages of cognitive development
  • the stages of physical development
  • the stages of emotional development
  • the stages of moral development correct answer
Question #3 According to the pre-conventional level of Kohlberg’s theory, to which of the following would an individual turn when making a moral decision?

[Child Development and Pedagogy] [CTET-2015-09]
  • Personal needs and desires
  • Individual values
  • Family expectations
  • Potential punishment involved correct answer
Question #4 Lawrence Kohlberg’s theory of moral reasoning has been criticized on several counts. Which of the following statements is correct in the context of this criticism?

[Child Development and Pedagogy] [CTET-2016-09]
  • Kohlberg has based his study primarily on a male sample. correct answer
  • Kohlberg has not given typical responses to each stage of moral reasoning.
  • Kohlberg has duplicated Piaget’s methods of arriving at his theoretical framework.
  • Kohlberg’s theory does not focus on children’s responses.
Question #5 According to Kohlberg, a teacher can instill moral values in children by

[Child Development and Pedagogy] [CTET-2012-01]
  • giving importance to religious teachings
  • laying clear rules of behavior
  • involving them in discussions on moral issues correct answer
  • giving strict instruction
Question #6 According to Kohlberg, the thinking process involved in judgments about questions of right and wrong is called

[Child Development and Pedagogy] [CTET-2012-01]
  • Moral reasoning correct answer
  • Moral realism
  • Moral dilemma
  • Morality co-operation
Question #7 In Lawrence Kohlberg’s theory, which level signifies the absence of morality in the true sense?

[Child Development and Pedagogy] [CTET-2015-02]
  • Level III
  • Level IV
  • Level I correct answer
  • Level II
Question #8 A teacher says to her class, “As individual assignments are designed to help individual students learn more effectively, all students should complete assignments prescribed without any assistance.” She is referring to which of the following stages of Kohlberg’s moral development?

[Child Development and Pedagogy] [CTET-2014-02]
  • Conventional stage 4 law and order correct answer
  • Post-conventional stage 5 social contract
  • Pre-conventional stage 1 punishment avoidance
  • Pre-conventional stage 2 individualism and exchange
Question #9 Which of the following is a characteristic of Kohlberg’s stages of moral development?

[Child Development and Pedagogy] [CTET-2014-02]
  • Variable sequence of stages
  • Stages are isolated responses and not general pattern
  • Universal sequences of stages across all cultures correct answer
  • Stages proceed in a non-hierarchic manner
Question #10 Karnail Singh does not pay income tax despite legal procedures and expenses. He thinks that he cannot support a corrupt government which spends millions of rupees in building unnecessary dams. He is probably in which state of Kohlberg’s stages of moral development

[Child Development and Pedagogy] [CTET-2013-07]
  • Conventional
  • Post Conventional correct answer
  • Pre Conventional
  • Para Conventional
Question #11 According to Kohlberg. at which level, morality is externally controlled?

[Child Development and Pedagogy] [UPTET-2016-02]
  • Pre-conventional level correct answer
  • Conventional level
  • Post-conventional level
  • None of the above
Question #12 A child reasons- ‘You do this for me and I’ll do that for you.’ In which stage of Kohlberg’s moral reasoning would this child fall?

[Child Development and Pedagogy] [CTET-2015-09]
  • The ‘good boy-good girl’ orientation correct answer
  • The social-contract orientation
  • The instrumental purpose orientation
  • The punishment and obedience orientation

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