Kohlberg: Moral Development in Population 

Stages of Moral Reasoning: Percentage by Age

Percentage gragh

So what do all these lines mean???

This data looks at the correlation between age and percent of population functioning at various stages of Kohlberg's moral reasoning theory.

As you can see, by age 10 stage 1 is declining (Obedience & Punishment) as is stage 2 (Self-needs) and is being replaced with stage 3 reasoning (Conformity to social rules for acceptance). We begin to see a slight increase in stage 4 (Law & Order) around age 14. What this indicates is that as the child grows in experience and cognitive ability, his ability to reason about moral issues also moves to a higher level. The premise is that an individual will function at the highest stage of reasoning possible to resolve a conflict, but if that stage is not successful, the individual will drop to the next stage.

By the time we reach adulthood, most adults in the USA are functioning most of the time at stage 4. Of course movement through the stages is not simply a matter of age or growing older. Like other cognitive areas, moral reasoning is also impacted by the culture and society in which one lives. Opportunities to deal with moral issues, to hear and interact with other perspectives, and experience with moral reasoning and problem solving will stimulate movement to higher stages of reasoning.

Stage 4 (Law and Order). This means that there is a clear understanding of the importance of social order in society. In addition to this understanding is the realization that they also have a duty or obligation to contribute to that order. This is more than a simple desire to have others think you are a "good person". This is a commitment to make a contribution by obeying the laws."

We just can't have people out there running around doing whatever they darn well please, just because they are desperate. Sure, Heinz wants his wife to live, but he must also consider the lives of others who are effected by his behavior. Just imagine what it would be like if every desperate person trying to save a loved one felt justified in breaking into banks or stores to steal what they felt they needed. The whole idea of social order would be wasted."