Lawrence Kohlberg

By: Joshua Cardenas

Personal Life

LawrenceKohlberg was born October 25th, (6 days away from Halloween) 1927 in Bronxville, New York. He was born in a wealthy family and is the youngest of four children in his family. When he was four years old, his parents separated. And later on when he was 14, hiss parents divorced. After WWII, Lawrence for a time with the Hagana on a ship smuggling Jewish refugees from Romania to British Blockade into Palestine. Then captured by the British and held at an intermment camp on Cyprus, he escaped with a few crew members and returned to the U.S., enrolling in the University of Chiago college. He later got a bachelors degree in one year in 1948. He then began to study Psychology to earn his doctoral degree in which he finished in 1958. He later begain studying and readling Piagat's work. He found a scholarly approach that gave a central place to the individual's reasoning in moral decision making. At the time this differentiated with the current psychological approaches to morality which down played an individual's struggle and that explained the development of morals. He had a wife and two children. He died on Janurary 19, 1987, at age 59. He commited sucide. In 1971, while he was doing some research in Belize, he catched a parasite infection. Because of this he suffered extreme abdominal pain. And sometimes he would develope depression. So he parked at a dead end street in Winthrop, Massachusetts, across from Boston's Airport. Leaving his wallet with identification on the front seat of his unlocked car, he walked into the icy cold Boston Harbor. His car and wallet were found within a couple of weeks, but his body was recovered a while later, with the late winter thaw, in a tidal marsh across the Harbor near the end of a Logan Airport runway.

His theory of six stages of Moral devlopement

He created the theory of Stages of Moral Development. He got the idea from studying Jean Piaget's work and then he expanded and modified his work which he later on made his theory. His theory had six stages and three levels.

Level 1: Preconventional


  1. Obedience and Punishment orientation

    Individuals focus on the consequences of their actions of themselves. If someone does wrong, they will get punished and ask themselves next time if they do wrong they will tell themselves "Last time I did this, I got harshly punished. I won't do it again."

  2. Self-interest Driven

    An individual where he/she puts their own needs before others and occsionally others in their needs. So stage two shows a limited interest in others and only look for the benefits. He/she has the atttitude of "You scratch my back and I scratch yours" rather than loyalty to help others.

Level 2: Conventional

3. Interpersonal accord and conformity driven

In Stage 3, an individual may conform to stereotypical images of majority or natural behavior. He or she will consider good behavior as whatever pleases or helps others and whatever behavior others approve of. For example if a person means well, he or she will judge the behavior as good; or, if being nice earns approval, then being nice is deemed a good behavior.

4. Maintaining the social order

In Stage 4, an individual considers right behavior as doing one’s duty or showing respect for authority. He or she becomes oriented towards fixed rules, authority, and maintaining social order

Level 3: Post Conventional

5. Social Contract

In Stage 5, an individual defines right action as that which consists of the individual rights and standards that society has examined and agreed upon.

6. Universal Ethical Principle

It is based on abstract reasoning and the ability to put oneself in other people's shoes. At this stage, people have a principled conscience and will follow universal ethical principles regardless of what the official laws and rules are.

Lawrence's theory is about how people justify behaviors and his stages are not a method of ranking how moral someone's behavior is; therefore, an entirely whole new field within psychology was created as a direct result of his theory.