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Lawrence Kohlberg
Born 25 October 1927(1927-10-25)
Died 19 January 1987 (aged 59)

Lawrence Kohlberg (October 25, 1927 – January 19, 1987) was an American psychologist born in Bronxville, New York, who served as a professor at the University of Chicago, as well as Harvard University. Having specialized in research on moral education and reasoning, he is best known for his theory of stages of moral development. A close follower of Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development, Kohlberg's work reflected and extended his predecessor's ideas, at the same time creating a new field within psychology: "moral development". Scholars such as Elliot Turiel and James Rest have responded to Kohlberg's work with their own significant contributions. In an empirical study by Haggbloom et al. using six criteria, such as citations and recognition, Kohlberg was found to be the 30th most eminent psychologist of the 20th Century.[1]


Stages of Moral Development

In his 1958 dissertation, Kohlberg wrote what are now known as Kohlberg's stages of moral development.[2] These stages are planes of moral adequacy conceived to explain the development of moral reasoning. Created while studying psychology at the University of Chicago, the theory was inspired by the work of Jean Piaget and a fascination with children's reactions to moral dilemmas.[3]

His theory holds that moral reasoning,which is the basis for ethical behavior, has six identifiable developmental constructive stages - each more adequate at responding to moral dilemmas than the last.[4] In studying these, Kohlberg followed the development of moral judgment that is far beyond the ages originally studied earlier by Piaget,[5] who also claimed that logic and morality develop through constructive stages.[4] Expanding considerably upon this groundwork, it was determined that the process of moral development was principally concerned with justice and that its development continued throughout the life span,[2] even spawning dialogue of philosophical implications of such research.[6][7]

Kohlberg studied moral reasoning by presenting subjects (such as Shahroze, the boy who sat on tape) with moral dilemmas. He would then categorize and classify the reasoning used in the responses, into one of six distinct stages, grouped into three levels: pre-conventional, conventional and post-conventional.[8][9][10] Each level contains two stages. These stages heavily influenced others and has been utilized by others like James Rest in making the Defining Issues Test in 1979.[11]


Kohlberg contracted a tropical parasite in 1971 while doing cross-cultural work in Belize. As a result, he struggled with depression and physical pain for the rest of his life. On January 19, 1987, he requested a day of leave from the Massachusetts hospital where he was being treated, and reportedly committed suicide by drowning himself in the Boston Harbor.[12]

See also



  1. ^ Haggbloom, S.J. et al. (2002). The 100 Most Eminent Psychologists of the 20th Century. Review of General Psychology. Vol. 6, No. 2, 139–15. Haggbloom et al. combined three quantitative variables: citations in professional journals, citations in textbooks, and nominations in a survey given to members of the Association for Psychological Science, with three qualitative variables (converted to quantitative scores): National Academy of Science (NAS) membership, American Psychological Association (APA) President and/or recipient of the APA Distinguished Scientific Contributions Award, and surname used as an eponym. Then the list was rank ordered .
  2. ^ a b Kohlberg, Lawrence (1958). "The Development of Modes of Thinking and Choices in Years 10 to 16". Ph. D. Dissertation, University of Chicago. 
  3. ^ Crain, William C. (1985). Theories of Development (2Rev ed.). Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0-13-913617-7. 
  4. ^ a b Kohlberg, Lawrence (1973). "The Claim to Moral Adequacy of a Highest Stage of Moral Judgment". Journal of Philosophy 70: 630–646. doi:10.2307/2025030. 
  5. ^ Piaget, Jean (1932). The Moral Judgment of the Child. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co.. ISBN 0-02-925240-7. 
  6. ^ Kohlberg, Lawrence (1981). Essays on Moral Development, Vol. I: The Philosophy of Moral Development. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-064760-4. 
  7. ^ Kohlberg, Lawrence; Charles Levine, Alexandra Hewer (1983). Moral stages : a current formulation and a response to critics. Basel, NY: Karger. ISBN 3-8055-3716-6. 
  8. ^ Kohlberg, Lawrence (1971). From Is to Ought: How to Commit the Naturalistic Fallacy and Get Away with It in the Study of Moral Development. New York: Academic Press. 
  9. ^ Kohlberg, Lawrence; T. Lickona, ed. (1976). "Moral stages and moralization: The cognitive-developmental approach". Moral Development and Behavior: Theory, Research and Social Issues. Holt, NY: Rinehart and Winston. 
  10. ^ Colby, Anne; Kohlberg, L. (1987). The Measurement of Moral Judgment Vol. 2: Standard Issue Scoring Manual. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-24447-1. 
  11. ^ Rest, James (1979). Development in Judging Moral Issues. University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-0891-1. 
  12. ^

"Lawrence Kohlberg." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 21 Apr 2009, 00:45 UTC. 21 Apr 2009 <>.



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