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Case Study: Kohlberg’s Moral Development Theory

Autor:   •  October 20, 2015  •  Case Study  •  2,319 Words (10 Pages)  •  1,149 Views

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In this essay, we will discuss the Kohlberg’s Moral Development theory, and how this particular theory applies to certain aspects within Mary’s case study.
‘Moral Development Theory is the way that individuals make judgments about ethical issues and social rules’ (Wortley, 2001, p.128).  Kohlberg formulated levels/stages of moral development; they were divided into a set of six sequential, qualitatively different stages and these stages are broken up into three levels; pre-conventional, conventional and post-conventional. Individuals pass through each stage given their personal development experiences. All three of these levels will be defined and explored, and how they apply to particular situations throughout Mary’s adolescent life and ultimately led Mary to commit a crime.

In the level of pre-conventional reasoning, there are two stages, Punishment and obedience, and Instrumental hedonism these two stages occur approximately at the age of 4-8 years old. In the Punishment and obedience stage, the child does not have a personal code of morality, instead, their moral code is shaped by the standards of adults and the consequences of following or breaking their rules (Mcleod, 2011).  In Mary’s case, she describes her mother as an inadequate and distant parent, who neglected her children emotionally and physically. We can only assume that with Mary’s description of her mother, that she was not attentive to Mary’s behavior or Mary in general in order to create rules for and/or enforce punishment for certain types of behavior’s. Also during this time Mary’s natural father subjected her and all members of the family to regular and unprovoked beatings, Mary described her father as a man, who was quite violent, drank heavily, rarely worked and had served multiple short prison terms for a variety of property and violence offences. The type of behavior her father displayed never came with any consequence, therefore, leaving Mary subject to the idea that this type of behavior is acceptable and no punishment will come of behaving in this manner.

Using these descriptions of Mary’s parents, we move into stage two of the pre-conventional reasoning level, Instrumental Hedonism. In this stage the child has an ‘egocentric view of the world and pursues behavior’s that further his/her self-interest’ (Wortley, 2001, p.129).  Perhaps Mary’s father inflicted physical abuse onto Mary and the rest of the family because in his eyes they were lesser than him, a disappointment, and failures of a family. Using this assumption as to why Mary’s father consistently abused alcohol and turned to physical abuse we can than assume that this is what caused Mary’s behavior to deteriorate, perhaps her self-interest was to obtain her fathers love. Perhaps the only way Mary thought to do this was to conduct in similar behaviorism as her father in order to be loved and accepted by him. By the age of nine years old her father abandoned the family and never made contact, within this level, Instrumental Hedonism, the ‘motives of others are taken into account leading to decisions that may be reciprocally beneficial’ (Wortley, 2001, p.129). At the time her father abandoned the family, Mary described herself as relieved, by reading this statement I cannot help to assume that maybe deep inside Mary’s subconscious she knew that my acting the way she did could have potentially influenced her father to leave, that although she adapted to the behaviors of both her mother and father she knew morally that what she was doing was wrong and could not help to feel relieved knowing her father was out of her life.  


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