Laurence Kohlberg’s theory of Moral Development I Six Stages of Moral Development

Criticism of Theory of Moral Development by Kohlberg
1. It has been suggested that Kohlberg’s theory is culturally biased because it emphasizes ideals such as individual rights and social justice, which are found mainly in western cultures. Miller and Bersoff showed that American placed greater value on a justice orientation (stage 4) than Indians. In contrast, Indians placed a greater weight on interpersonal responsibilities, such as upholding one’s obligations to others and being responsive to others and being responsive to other people’s needs (stage 3).
2. Psychologist Carol Gilligan criticized it strongly on the grounds that it was biased against women. She has argued that Kohlberg’s theory is excessively androcentric (evaluation of individuals and cultures based on male perspectives, standards, and values). She noted that many women do not base moral judgements on the principles of justice emphasized by Kohlberg, rather they base them on what she termed care-based principles- concern over relationships, caring and the promotion of other’s welfare. Placing abstract principles of justice (stage 4) above relationships and concern for others (stage 3) is based on a male norm and reflects the fact most of Kohlberg’s research used male participants.
3. Kohlberg’s theory, like other stage theories, suggests that as people grow older, they move through a series of successive discrete stages. If that were true, then it would be predicted that individual’s moral reasoning across a wide range of moral dilemmas should be consistent – it should reflect the stage they have reached. But that’s not true. People frequently demonstrate significant inconsistency in their moral judgements.
4. Other psychologists have questioned the assumption that moral action is primarily a result of formal reasoning. Social intuitionists such as Jonathan Haidt argue that individuals often make moral judgments without weighing concerns such as fairness, law, human rights or ethical values. Thus the arguments analyzed by Kohlberg and other rationalist psychologists could be considered post hoc rationalizations of intuitive decisions; moral reasoning may be less relevant to moral action than Kohlberg’s theory suggests.


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Laurence Kohlberg’s theory of Moral Development I Six Stages of Moral Development

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