Relevant Developmental Outcomes and Implications


  • Morality impacts how we make decisions and has implications on how we do business (Bateman & Valentine, 2010), how we treat tricky medical situations (i.e. euthanasia; Dworkin, 1993), if we give to charity (Ijzendoorn, Bakermans-Kranenburg, Pannebakker, & Out, 2010) and what laws we follow or break (Bateman & Valentine, 2010).
  • Morality allows us to make sense of and give ethical boundaries to our social interactions. (i.e. understanding the consequences of our actions or what actions are appropriate)
  • Morality can both guide and complicate legal systems and rules (i.e. death penalty, abortion, euthanasia; Dworkin, 1993).
  • Where morality comes from and how it develops will continue to be a debate. (i.e. is it from God, society, innate, etc).
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Strengths and Weaknesses weakness.jpg
A primary weakness of Kohlberg's theory is his claim that his model of moral judgment development is universal (Snarey, 1985). As demonstrated by Snarey, this is obviously not so (at least his stage model). It is very difficult for social scientists to accept Kohlberg's claim that development of moral reasoning is universal throughout all cultural settings.

Other critics state that Kohlberg's theory grants the role of reason too much power (Arnold, 2000). For example, Arnold argues that the moral reasoner in Kohlberg's model, at the highest developmental levels, may be seen as cold, rationalistic, disembodied, and out of touch with realities (Arnold, 2000). Lastly, Gilligan (1982) strongly criticized Kohlberg and other morality researchers for the exclusive use of white, male participants in constructing their theories and testing their hypotheses. To rectify this, she posed a model of moral development focused on the experiences of girls and women (see "History" page). However, critics of Gilligan have then noted that she based her assumptions and research on primarily white women, rather than minority women as well. Additional research with non-White, non-Western populations is greatly needed in understanding morality.

However, a primary strength of Kohlberg's model is the extensive amount of research conducted in other countries. As noted by Snarey (1985), while his model does not perfectly fit cultures from around the world, his general, early stages of moral development do appear to be a good match in describing moral development for a variety of cultures. Therefore, while it appears that some aspects of moral development are culture-specific, others may actually be universal.