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Moral & Psychosocial
Developing Morality
Kohlberg (1981, 1984) sought to describe the
development of moral reasoning by posing moral
dilemmas to children and adolescents, such as
“Should a person steal medicine to save a loved
one’s life?”
He found stages of moral development by
studying the reasons why a decision or action
was moral.
Kohlberg’s “Heinz Dilemma”
• A woman was near death from a special kind of cancer. There was
one drug that the doctors thought might save her. It was a form of
radium that a druggist in the same town had recently discovered.
The drug was expensive to make, but the druggist was charging
ten times what the drug cost him to produce. He paid $200 for
the radium and charged $2,000 for a small dose of the drug. The
sick woman’s husband, Heinz, went to everyone he knew to
borrow the money, but he could only get together about $1,000
which is half of what it cost. He told the druggist that his wife was
dying and asked him to sell it cheaper or let him pay later. But the
druggist said: “No, I discovered the drug and I’m going to make
money from it.” So Heinz got desperate and broke into the man’s
store to steal the drug for his wife.
Was Heinz moral or immoral in stealing the drug? WHY?
3 Basic Levels of Moral Thinking
Preconventional Morality:
Before age 9, children show
morality to avoid punishment
or gain reward.
Conventional Morality: By
early adolescence, social rules
and laws are upheld for their
own sake.
Postconventional Morality:
Affirms people’s agreed-upon
rights or follows personally
perceived ethical principles.
Kohlberg’s Moral Ladder
Morality of abstract
principles: to affirm
agreed-upon rights and
personal ethical principles
Morality of law and
social rules: to gain
approval or avoid
Morality of self-interest:
to avoid punishment
or gain concrete rewards
 As moral
progresses, the
focus of concern
moves from the
self to the wider
social world.
Fig. 11-17, p. 440
Fig. 11-18, p. 441
As our thinking matures, so does our behavior in
that we become less selfish and more caring.
People who engage in doing the right thing
develop empathy for others and the selfdiscipline to resist their own impulses.
Social Development
Fig. 11-11, p. 431
Myers, D.G. (2011). Myers’ psychology for AP.
Holland, MI: Worth Publishers.