Identifying a developmental pattern of the moral reasoning processes prior to Kohlberg's stage one



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Texas Tech University


While moral reasoning may require an integration of several concepts, no method of examining the development of this apparent "complete" morality prior to the individual's ability to make a Stage 1 moral decision as assessed by Kohlberg (Colby & Kohlberg, 1987) has been developed. This study initiates description of the individual's moral reasoning prior to an ability to make a Stage 1 Kohlbergian judgment and serves as initial identification of a developmental pattern of the integration of skills necessary for understanding issues contained within a Kohlbergian moral dilemma.

Young children appear unable to resolve all the concepts/issues contained in Kohlberg's Heinz dilemma. An accurate estimation of early moral reasoning ability might be obtained through delineation of concepts as dilemma resolution occurs. This study's examination of the development of moral reasoning processes attempted to serialize the issues contained within Kohlberg's dilemma through the utilization of Kurt Fischer's (1980) model for skill-building.

This study hypothesized that the issues of life and those of law--the underlying issues of the Heinz dilemma-- are scalable as substages within the task domains of Familial Relationships, Sickness/Death, Laws/Rules, and Fairness. Guttman scale analysis was utilized to determine the scalability of the items hypothesized by the investigator to be in each task domain as well as those of higher order skill domains of Care/Life and Justice/Law. Interviews were conducted with 80 subjects--20 subjects in each of these age groups: (1) four years, (2) seven to eight years, (3) nine to ten years, and (4) eleven to twelve years.

Guttman scale analyses revealed coefficients sufficient to validate the task domain scales of Laws/Rules and Fairness. While coefficients of the other scales did not reach high,validity levels, these statistics approached values necessary for validation. Comparisons of consistent progression of correct responses across chronological age and mental age, as well as qualitative analyses of the interview transcripts, indicated developmental trends in the issues. The investigator concluded that scaling these issues in order to analyze their progressive development toward Kohlberg's Stage 1 can be accomplished. A revised scale is proposed for future examination of varied populations.



Moral development -- Measurement, Kohlberg, Lawrence, 1927-, Ethics