Creation of Morality

High School ・Psychology ・APA ・2 Sources

Lawrence Kohlberg developed a moral growth theory that explored the phases that an infant or an individual's moral sense passes through. His theories were based on the ideals of moral thought by Jean Piaget and John Dewey (Barger, 2017). Kohlberg indicated that in six steps, which he divided into three stages, individuals advanced by moral thinking. According to Kohlberg, pre-conventional stages were the first level of moral creation. At this point, a child grows through two phases: compliance and retribution, in which the child performs according to the standards agreed in society when the authority figure tells them so. In case of punishment, the child is compelled to respect the norms as they are threatened to be punished (Barger, 2017). The second stage in this level is the individualism and exchange in which the child realizes that acting in the best interest of the doer, that is, the child will act to satisfy what they need and that it is allowed to have varied viewpoints.

The second level in Kohlberg’s theory is the conventional morality in which individuals begin internalizing moral standards. The first stage at this level is the indicated by the manner in which an individual acts to gain the approval of other people (Barger, 2017). The second stage of this level is characterized by the individual being bound by the law and avoiding guilt.

The third level according to Kohlberg is the post-conventional morality in which the moral reasoning off individuals is determined by the self-chosen principles and individual justice and rights (Barger, 2017). Social contract is indicated by social maturity demonstrated by genuine interest towards the affairs of others. The last stage in this level is concerned with the individual demands for conscience.

Carol Gilligan, who was a research assistant for Kohlberg criticized the work by Kohlberg based on two things (Gilligan, 2013). She posited that the study by Kohlberg was biased in the selection of participants as only privileged white boys and men were included in the study, indicating that the study had a biased opinion for women. The second issue she raised in her criticism was that the moral development theory viewed male as privileged in their perspective of rules and rights compared to the perspective of women on caring for the human relationships (Gilligan, 2013).

In her publication of in a different voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development, she asserted that three exists differences between the men and women. She pointed out that women had a different moral and psychological tendencies from men. Gilligan noted that men tend to think in terms of justice and rules while women are inclined towards relationships and caring.

As a complement to the moral development theory by Kohlberg, she outlined three moral developmental stages: selfish, social morality, and principled morality. The study by Gilligan was aimed at demonstrating that the perspective proposed by moral theories about women were inadequate and biased since women followed a different maturation path than the one taken by the men (Gilligan, 2013). Therefore, it is inaccurate for the moral theories to disregard the morality of the women based on the fact that their perspective did not fit in the mold. Therefore, she proposed that since the women developed through relationships and caring, they should be valued as equally as the evaluation used for the men who developed through rules and rights.


Barger, R. (2017). KOHLBERG'S THEORY OF MORAL DEVELOPMENT. Retrieved 1 October 2017, from 

Gilligan, C. (2013). Gilligan's Moral Development.

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