Psychological Development Across the Lifespan

Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development

What did Kohlberg mean by preconventional morality?

The first level, preconventional morality, is most commonly found in children under ten. There are two stages to level 1, obedience and punishment orientation and individualism and exchange. In both cases, morality is determined by the consequences of the action to the person performing the behavior—whether the individual is punished or rewarded. In stage 1, the child equates what is right with what authority says is right. Often that is discernible by the punishment that follows. If you get punished, the behavior must be wrong. In stage 2, the child has learned that different people can have different perspectives—that is, there can be more than one view of right and wrong. However, morality is still determined by the consequences of the event, whether the actor benefits or not. Additionally, there is a sense of exchange between people. Behavior may be wrong because the other person may retaliate or may fail to cooperate in the future.


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