You may think that at a certain age a person should be at a certain maturity level, but the fact is that people develop their moral standings at different ages and times in their life. Moral development is the adaptation to the moral world in which we live. Adolescents develop a conscious identity when they are able to think and reason about abstract ideas. They have reached the formal operational stage which is when they use hypothetical thinking. You could also say that moral values are learned (Coon, 2003).Kolhberg designed six stages which are divided into three levels. In this paper I will discuss the preconventional, conventional, and post conventional stages of moral development.
Just because someone may have a high moral reasoning ability is no guarantee that a person will act morally, other factors, such as the likely hood of being caught, also affect behavior.
This leads us to our first level, the preconventional level. This level is all about obeying and avoiding punishment from a superior authority. If a child thinks that they will get caught then they will not disobey the rules or the law. In other words if they think that they will get something in return then they will make a fair exchange for it. They are pleasure-seeking and selfish in nature (Coon, 2003). In 1990 a poll was taken questioning the morals of American children asking if they would cheat to pass an important exam. Two- thirds said that they would, which would place them in the preconventional level of reasoning (Coon, 2003). Even though the preconventional level usually only applies to children under the age of nine. When they become a little older then they may move up into the next level which is the conventional level.
The conventional level usually consist of the ages nine to nineteen. In this stage people are concerned about other people and want to please them and gain their approval (Coon, 2003). They think that morality consists of following the rules and conventions such as the duty to their family, marriage vows, and to their country, For example, they would never think that it would be proper to burn the flag. Other examples would be to not commit adultery when in a committed marriage, not committing street crimes, or using drugs. This is usually the highest level that most people reach, but for some there is the post conventional level.
The post conventional level is seen rarely in extraordinary individuals. Formal operational reasoning maybe is necessary for people to reach the highest level of moral reasoning, but this alone is not sufficient. To some extent, at the highest levels, moral reasoning is a product of culture and history. Gender may also play a role in achieving this level of reasoning (Coon, 2003). Males relate moral maturity to justice and they do not think like women do. Women care about relationships a lot and that can place a strain on things (Coon, 2003). Kolhberg combines the two main points in this level because they are hard to separate (Coon, 2003).This level is based on personal standards or universal principles of justice rather than on the dictates of authority figures in society. People respect rules and laws, but recognize that they may have limits. It is like a social contract orientation (Coon, 2003).
In conclusion, as people mature and grow up they go through different stages in their life which define where they are morally. Most people will never be able to reach the post conventional level of moral reasoning for different reasons (Coon, 2003). With that, it is safe to say that the majority of this Earth's population lies in the area if the conventional level. The level of gaining other's approval and wanting their acceptance. They will follow the rules of the roles in their life in order to not gain negative attention. As it was said earlier gender may also play a role. Females usually focus on the need to protect enduring relationships and fulfilling human needs. Males focus on the concept of justice that makes it impersonal for them. Everyone is on different levels of reasoning whether their race, age, or gender is the same or not. That is what makes up the diverse world that we live in today.