Theory of Moral Development is a very interesting subject that stemmed from Jean
Piaget’s theory of moral reasoning. This theory was later developed by psychologist Lawrence
Kohlberg. This is useful for understanding the morality that starts from the early childhood years.
He also studied the various factors that influence Morality. Morality can be developed either
negatively or positively, depending on how an individual accomplishes the tasks before him
during each stage of moral development across his lifespan. He found out that children are faced
with different moral issues, and their judgments on whether they are to act positively or
negatively over each dilemma are heavily influenced by several factors. In each scenario that
Kohlberg related to the children, he was not really asking whether or not the person in the
situation is morally right or wrong, but he wanted to find out the reasons why these children
think that the character is morally right or not.
In this paper an attempt is made to discuss then Heinz dilemma. The six stages of moral
development and problems associated with his theory were discussed.
Lawrence Kohlberg's stages of moral development constitute an adaptation of a
psychological theory originally conceived by the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget. Kohlberg
began work on this topic while a psychology graduate student at the University of Chicago
(Crain 1985) 1958 and expanded and developed this theory throughout his life. The theory holds
that moral reasoning, the basis for ethical behavior, has six identifiable developmental stages,
each more adequate at responding to moral dilemmas than its predecessor (Kohlberg 1973).
Kohlberg followed the development of moral judgment far beyond the ages studied earlier by
Piaget (Piaget 1932) who also claimed that logic and morality develop through constructive
stages (Kohlberg 1973). Expanding on Piaget's work, Kohlberg determined that the process of

moral development was principally concerned with justice, and that it continued throughout the
individual's lifetime (Kohlberg 1958), a notion that spawned dialogue on the philosophical
implications of such research (Kohlberg 1981, Kohlberg et. al 1983) The six stages of moral
development are grouped into three levels: pre-conventional morality, conventional morality, and
post-conventional morality. For his studies, Kohlberg relied on stories such as the Heinz
dilemma, and was interested in how individuals would justify their actions if placed in similar
moral dilemmas. He then analyzed the form of moral reasoning displayed, rather than its
conclusion (Kohlberg et al.1981), and classified it as belonging to one of six distinct stages
(Kohlberg 1981, Goldberg and Lickona 1976)
Lawrence Kohlberg (1958) agreed with Piaget's (1932) theory of moral development in
principle but wanted to develop his ideas further. He used Piaget’s storytelling technique to tell
people stories involving moral dilemmas. In each case he presented a choice to be considered,
for example, between the rights of some authority and the needs of some deserving individual
who is being unfairly treated.
One of the best known of Kohlberg’s (1958) stories concerns a man called Heinz who
lived somewhere in Europe. Heinz’s wife was dying from a particular type of cancer. Doctors
said a new drug might save her. The drug had been discovered by a local chemist and the Heinz
tried desperately to buy some, but the chemist was charging ten times the money it cost to make
the drug and this was much more than the Heinz could afford.
Heinz could only raise half the money, even after help from family and friends. He
explained to the chemist that his wife was dying and asked if he could have the drug cheaper or
pay the rest of the money later. The chemist refused, saying that he had discovered the drug and
was going to make money from it. The husband was desperate to save his wife, so later that night
he broke into the chemist’s and stole the drug.
Kohlberg asked a series of questions such as:
1. Should Heinz have stolen the drug?
2. Would it change anything if Heinz did not love his wife?

3. What if the person dying was a stranger, would it make any difference?
4. Should the police arrest the chemist for murder if the woman died?
By studying the answers from children of different ages to these questions Kohlberg hoped to
discover the ways in which moral reasoning changed as people grew older
.Level 1: Preconventional Morality. The first level of morality, Preconventional morality, can be
further divided into two stages: obedience and punishment, and individualism and exchange.
Stage 1: Punishment- Obedience Orientation
Related to Skinner’s Operational Conditioning, this stage includes the use of punishment so that
the person refrains from doing the action and continues to obey the rules. For example, we
follow the law because we do not want to go to jail.
Stage 2: Instrumental Relativist Orientation
In this stage, the person is said to judge the morality of an action based on how it satisfies the
individual needs of the doer. For instance, a person steals money from another person because he
needs that money to buy food for his hungry children. In Kohlberg’s theory, the children tend to
say that this action is morally right because of the serious need of the doer.
Level 2: Conventional Morality
The second level of morality involves the stages 3 and 4 of moral development. Conventional
morality includes the society and societal roles in judging the morality of an action.
Stage 3: Good Boy-Nice Girl Orientation
In this stage, a person judges an action based on the societal roles and social expectations before
him. This is also known as the “interpersonal relationships” phase. For example, a child gives
away her lunch to a street peasant because she thinks doing so means being nice.
Stage 4: Law and Order Orientation

This stage includes respecting the authorities and following the rules, as well as doing a person’s
duty. The society is the main consideration of a person at this stage. For instance, a policeman
refuses the money offered to him under the table and arrests the offender because he believes this
is his duty as an officer of peace and order.
Level 3: Post conventional Morality
The post-conventional morality includes stage 5 and stage 6. This is mainly concerned with the
universal principles that relation to the action done.
Stage 5: Social Contract Orientation
In this stage, the person is look at various opinions and values of different people before coming
up with the decision on the morality of the action.
Stage 6: Universal Ethical Principles Orientation
The final stage of moral reasoning, this orientation is when a person considers universally
accepted ethical principles. The judgment may become innate and may even violate the laws and
rules as the person becomes attached to his own principles of justice.

1. Crain, William C. (1985). Theories of Development (2Rev Ed.). Prentice-Hall.
2. Kohlberg, Lawrence (1973). "The Claim to Moral Adequacy of a Highest Stage of Moral
Judgment". Journal of Philosophy (The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 70, No. 18) 70 (18):
3. Piaget, Jean (1932). The Moral Judgment of the Child. London: Kegan Paul, Trench,
Trubner and Co.
4. Kohlberg, Lawrence (1958). "The Development of Modes of Thinking and Choices in
Years 10 to 16". Ph. D. Dissertation, University of Chicago.
5. Kohlberg, Lawrence (1981). Essays on Moral Development, Vol. I: The Philosophy of
Moral Development. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row.
6. Kohlberg, Lawrence; Charles Levine; Alexandra Hewer (1983). Moral stages: a current
formulation and a response to critics. Basel, NY: Karger. Kohlberg, Lawrence (1971).

From Is to Ought: How to Commit the Naturalistic Fallacy and Get Away with It in the
Study of Moral Development. New York: Academic Press.
7. Kohlberg, Lawrence; T. Lickona, ed. (1976). "Moral stages and moralization: The
cognitive-developmental approach". Moral Development and Behavior: Theory, Research
and Social Issues. Holt, NY: Rinehart and Winston. Colby, Anne; Kohlberg, L. (1987).
The Measurement of Moral Judgment Vol. 2: Standard Issue Scoring Manual. Cambridge
University Press
8. Gilligan, Carol (1982). "In a Different Voice: Women's Conceptions of Self and
Morality". Harvard Educational Review 47 (4). 22-23.