Lawrence Kohlberg took his understanding of Piaget's theory of moral development as well as his own personal findings and developed what is considered one of the most influential theories on the development of moral judgment. Alike Piaget he also interviewed children, presented them with moral dilemmas, and evaluated the information he received into a theory of his own. As he also regarded moral development as discontinuous he similarly organized his theory into different stages and levels humans might find themselves in.

Hierarchical Order
Level 1
Moral reasoning is egotistical- generally focused on getting rewards and avoiding punishment
Stage 1
Punishment and Obedience
Individuals obey authority and rules in order to avoid punishment. E.g. Mom: "Clean your room or no TV"
Child: "Yes mommy"
Right= obedience
Wrong= disobedience

Stage 2
Instrumental and Exchange
Individuals watch out for their own wants and needs, and make decisions based on convenience. Commonly known as the " you scratch my back I'll scratch yours" stage of morality where
Right= what is in one's best interests
Wrong= what is against one's best interests

Level 2
Moral reasoning is based on society's needs for order, focused on social law and social relationship roles.
Stage 3
Mutual Interpersonal Expectations, Relationships, and Interpersonal Conformity
Individuals modify their behavior to what is expected of them socially- their role in society and close social relationships. E.g. "I'll study hard so that my parents can be proud of me"
Right= Fulfilling expectations
Wrong= Ignoring Expectations

Stage 4
Social System and Conscience
Individuals uphold the laws and duties society has placed on them in order to consider themselves productive members of said society.
E.g. "Even when there is no one around it would be wrong to run a red light because I would be violating the law"
Right= Obeying the Law
Wrong= Disobeying the Law

Level 3
Moral reasoning is based more on moral principles and ideals, focused on morality for all people
Stage 5
Social Contract or Individual Rights
Individuals attempt to do what is right for the group- what is right for society- and the majority except in the case of unalienable rights for all people. E.g. "I should clean up after myself to keep the common area clean for all of us"
Right=upholding what is best for the majority (with above mentioned exception)
Wrong= going against what is best for the majority (with above mentioned exception)
Stage 6
Universal Ethical Principles
Individuals behave in accordance with ethical principles that exhibit universal principles of justice, when laws violate these individuals must seek to reform these as their set of ethics dictates. E.g. "We must amend the constitution to make equal rights for all persons, every human being deserves the same dignity and respect"
Right=ethical behavior
Wrong=unethical behavior

According to Kohlberg, people everywhere went through these stages in this order, but not all made it all the way through to the last stage. He also conceded that cognitive development has a critical influence
on where people will find themselves within his stages. He, like Piaget, was critized for his depiction of moral development as discontinous, his heavy reliance on western culture's idea of morality and how other cultures where unable to get too far in his stages, and how the influence of gender difference may affect his theory since he only interviewed boys when developing it.

*All information on this page was derived from source number 2 found on reference page.*

For more information on Kohlberg and his moral judgment theory consider these sites: