Critical Study: Lawrence Kohlberg’s Theory of moral development

Lawrence Kohlberg was a well-known psychologist, but later he drove his focus toward the field of education. Lawrence Kohlberg proposed a theory of moral development in which he gave a chain of stages in which he stated that people develop their moral reasoning by going through those stages. Today we will discuss the criticism of Lawrence Kohlberg's theory of moral development.

Critical Study: Lawrence Kohlberg’s Theory of moral development

The main focus of Lawrence Kohlberg’s theory of moral development:

Lawrence Kohlberg has shown that his major focus in his theory of moral development is The main focus of Lawrence Kohlberg’s research is that moral reasoning for a child is a complicated process, and therefore, it needs guidance through his proposed stages of development.

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Criticism of Lawrence Kohlberg’s theory of moral development:

We will study the criticism of Lawrence Kohlberg’s theory of moral development by Carol Gilligan. According to the criticism of Carol Gilligan on Lawrence Kohlberg’s theory of moral development, this theory of development did not focus on gender differences. This theory of moral development by Lawrence Kohlberg majorly focuses on males, not females. It happened because this theory did not pay heed to the perspective of care.

Carol says that males and females are both of the opposite genders, and in this way, their social interaction is also completely different. According to her, women are more concerned about interpersonal relationships and take responsibility for the welfare of others as compared to males. It is due to the fact that a child has great interaction with its mother, as well as females, are normally taught a moral frame of mind by which the care of personal relationships and focus on community become their priority.

Criticism of Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development:

Carol Gilligan also presented criticism of the moral development stages of Lawrence Kohlberg. She presented criticism on the three stages of moral development—pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional.

Critical Study: Lawrence Kohlberg’s Theory of moral development

Criticism of the pre-conventional stage of Lawrence Kohlberg’s theory of moral development:

According to Lawrence, in the pre-conventional stage of moral development. External rewards and punishments control moral reasoning. At this stage, punishment, self-interest, and reward are the basis of moral thinking. But Carol Gilligan emphasizes that in the pre-conventional stage, a person cares about himself only to the extent of a safe way of living. In this phase, a person seems selfish, but in actuality, he tries to build a connection between himself and others.

Criticism of the conventional stage of Lawrence Kohlberg’s theory of moral development:

The second phase of moral growth by Lawrence Kohlberg in his theory of moral development is conventional. Lawrence Kohlberg divides this stage into two parts: interpersonal norms and social system morality. In the first stage, Lawrence Kohlberg argues that children give priority to care, faithfulness, and care for others based upon moral judgment. They adopt moral standards for their parents and struggle to be "good" or "bad" for them, as this is a rewarding stage for a child.

In the stage of social system morality, he says that law, justice, duty, and social order are the basis of moral judgments. At this stage, a child follows those laws for the benefit of society and to be a good person to others. But Carol Gilligan counters this statement by Lawrence Kohlberg in a conventional stage of moral development. She says that in the conventional stage, a person becomes responsible and shows care towards others. Furthermore, she argues that this responsible attitude is usually shown in females, not in males.

Criticism of the post-conventional stage of Lawrence Kohlberg’s theory of moral development:

Lawrence Kohlberg says that in post-conventional, a person fully adopts a morality that is not based upon the calibre of others. He divides this stage into two parts: the rights of the community and individual and universal ethical principles. In the stage of the rights of the community and individual, he says a person becomes able to admit that laws are crucial for sustaining a society. At the same time, he knows that laws have the capability of change. Thus, there is the greater importance of values than laws. Similarly, in the second stage of Universal Ethical Principles, Lawrence Kohlberg says that people will follow their conscience over laws even if it involves personal risks. To develop a moral standard based upon universal human rights, people will consider good as abstract principles and emphasizes human rights without the care and approval of society.  In contrast, Carol Gilligan argues that in the post-conventional, the principle of care for self and others is observed in this stage. At the same time, she says that some people may not be able to reach this level. Additionally, Gilligan says that Lawrence Kohlberg's post-conventional stage is not procured by women. But according to her, this stage of post-conventional is quite difficult for a woman, because she cares about the relationship. Thus, Carol Gilligan divides the post-conventional stage into two stages: care-based and justice-based morality. She says that in the very first stage of post-conventional, the thinking of care-based morality is found in the female gender, in which they majorly focus on human prosperity.

Why a care-based morality is found in women in criticism of the post-conventional stage of moral development theory of Lawrence Kohlberg?

Carol Gilligan gives certain reasons by criticizing the moral development theory of Lawrence Kohlberg. She says that care-based morality is found in women because they are more concerned about universality and relationships. They show an attitude of avoidance. Apart from these, women are selflessly engrossed in helping others.

On the other hand, justice-based morality is found in the male gender. They mostly focus on making sure that rules and laws that are based on moral principles stay in place so that justice is done.

So, here we completely discussed the criticism of Lawrence Kohlberg's theory of moral development by Carol Gilligan. 

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