Stages of development of moral consciousness
Piaget's research, after three decades, was continued in the works of the American psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg (1927-1987). In his scientific experiments, not only preschool children, but also adolescents and adults participated. As a result of his research, Kolberg came to the conclusion that as the moral principle develops, the interest of a person gradually shifts from one's personality to the problems of others. He singled out several stages that people go through in their moral formation. These stages were grouped by the author into three basic levels: pre-conventional (derived from Latin conventionalis "corresponding to the contract, condition"), conventional and postconventional. Each of these levels is divided into two stages by Kolberg.
Being at the first stage of the first, preconventional level, children assess actions primarily on their consequences. The child concentrates on his own interests, and in assessing the actions proceeds from whether it will be possible to avoid punishment and whether it is possible to receive praise or reward. In his view, the act looks bad or good depending on the consequences. At the first stage of the preconventional level, the correctness or incorrectness of actions is assessed from the point of view of compliance with norms in order to avoid punishment.
At the second stage of the preconventional level, children begin to form elementary ideas about reciprocity. Children already realize that people have to satisfy their needs and give the opportunity to do it to others. There appears the idea that you have to act "honestly", and the mechanism of this act is read with some degree of conventionality, as "you help me - I help you."
At the final stage of childhood and in adolescence, a person is able to rise to the third - a conventional level. Here, interpersonal interaction and social values come to the forefront. In some cases, they can dominate over personal interests. L. Colberg notes that at the beginning of this period, in the third stage, the need to "be good in one's eyes and the eyes of others" can be emphasized, which means being guided by worthy motives and taking care of others. For a child experiencing this stage of moral development, there is usually a pronounced conformality to the models of behavior of the majority. The main meaning in this period is the intention behind the action: the child seeks approval for his "good behavior."
In the fourth stage, which dominates the moral views of the adolescent, the social point of view or position of a member of society becomes. He is increasingly concerned not only with observance of moral norms, but also their maintenance, justification and justification. Describing the specific behavior of the person at this stage, Colberg notes that the teenager seeks to behave "correctly", fulfill his duties, respect the authorities and respect social norms, usually for the sake of the norms themselves. Adolescents are already able to perceive what is happening from the point of view of other people and to support actions approved by the environment. They are guided by generally accepted norms and laws, traditional morality.
The next postconventional level (stages 5 and 6) is marked by the fact that the moral judgments of a person are increasingly based on generalized abstract principles that are adopted not because society considers them correct, but because they are regarded as fair in substance. An individual who has reached the fifth stage, without any coercion, only his own will follows social order. Thus, he actually enters into an agreement with the society, this secret agreement with the society guarantees the fair distribution of rights and freedoms, as well as their protection. At this stage, democratic mechanisms emerge - the impartiality of the application of law and the opposition to laws, if the laws themselves violate the principles of equality, freedom, justice.
The highest - the sixth stage of the moral development of the personality is characterized by a rational moral position and is connected with following the universal, absolute principles of justice, equality and respect for human life and human rights. This level is characterized, as L. Kolberg and his co-authors argued, by a sharp shift towards abstract, universal and not connected with any particular social group of moral principles (L. Kolberg, S. Giligan). Those who achieve the level of "true morality" come to the hard-won ethical principles based on respect for human rights and the recognition of democratic norms. At this level, the main judge of human actions is conscience.
L. Colberg, following Piaget, believed that the level of human morality depends on the development of general cognitive abilities, that the order of the passage of stages, like the very order of the stages of moral development, is unchanged. Each stage is built and developed from the previous one, replacing it. Piaget believed that apart from the general cognitive development, an egalitarian relationship with peers exerts a great influence on moral formation (the transition from moral realism to moral relativism). Colberg also came to the conclusion that the democratic nature of social institutions contributes to the greater moral maturity of members of society.
His experiments showed that the judgments of most adults correspond to the third and fourth stages of moral development according to his classification. Although by the end of adolescence and especially in the years of adolescence, the answers corresponding to the fifth stage appear more and more often, only a small percentage of the population reaches this stage. In fact, people with moral judgments of the sixth stage are so rare that Kolberg himself proposed to exclude it from the evaluation system.
The research of L. Kolberg attracted great interest among psychologists and educators, his hypothesis that the stages of moral development of personality are an ordered, universal invariant sequence, was confirmed in a number of other studies. Moreover, the ego found support in cross-cultural studies conducted on the basis of a number of dissimilar cultures (Indonesia, Nigeria, Taiwan, Turkey, Central America, etc.). The regularities discovered by Colberg and in the longitudinal studies of the formation of moral consciousness were confirmed. As a result of a 20-year study of American men who were regularly examined starting from adolescence, it was found that none of them had passed any of the stages (A. Colby, L. Colberg, J. Gibbs, M. Lieberman and others .). The confirmation, expressed by Piaget, of the close connection between the character of moral judgments and the level of formation of cognitive skills of the individual, found its confirmation. It is also revealed that the maturity of moral judgments is positively related to the level and quality of formal education, interest in art and humanitarian knowledge, with a common cultural horizon and the scope of intercultural experience, tolerance, etc. (J. Reet, M. Schomberg, J. Spikkelmer).
However, the theory of J. Piaget, and the theory of L. Kolberg repeatedly criticized. Some experts believe that since moral principles are culturally conditioned, the reasoning that certain moral judgments are more moral than others is "self-centered" (D. Baumring). It was also questioned that in moral judgments, young children are focused exclusively on the expected reward, avoidance of punishment and respect for authorities. A number of researchers believe that children have more profound ideas about morality than they are able to neutralize. They are characterized by "intuitive moral competence" (R. Scheveder, E. Turail, D. Much).
Doubts in the conclusions of L. Kolberg were caused by later results of gender studies of the development of moral judgments. Carol Gilligan, who studied these issues, believes that the focus on justice is traditionally emphasized in the socialization of boys, whereas girls are usually socialized differently so that they are caring and sensitive. Thus, males gain advantages, because the high rate of moral maturity is due to the orientation toward justice.
To address the very approach of studying the level of moral development of personality, proposed by J. Piaget and developed by L. Kolberg, sounded more serious criticism. So, for example, a number of researchers rightfully assert that the proposed sequence of stages of moral development is based on reactions that arise in subjects in hypothetical situations, and not in real behavior. The question of whether it is possible to predict the behavior of people (both children and adults) on the basis of their judgments about matters of morality, sounds rhetorically. A person very often says one thing, but does something completely different. It is obvious that on the basis of moral judgments we can only assume what will be the real, social behavior of the individual, since the connection between these characteristics according to the most optimistic estimates can only be qualified as moderate. Moreover, in special studies it was noted that the degree of connection of moral judgments and behavioral manifestations increases with age (N. Newcomb et al.).
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