Eisenberg’s and Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development Essay

            Eisenberg’s and Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development

Understanding human behaviors is the main focus of psychology of which morality is an important part. There had been models that had established regarding this study and are Nancy Eisenberg’s and Lawrence Kohlberg’s theories of moral development are to of them. The main similarity between the two models is that they both try to categorize developmental behaviors and reasoning of humans. Also, their models suggest that as each individual reaches a higher stage of reasoning, they develop their values, their reasoning and response to certain situations. Both suggest that as a person moves from one stage to higher stage, they become more reasonable in what they do, they become less of a child in terms of reasoning and proving the validity of their actions.

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            Kohlberg’s model classifies behaviors and reasoning stages into three groups: the reasoning of a child, the reasoning of an adult and a principled level. On the other hand, no such classification can be seen in Eisenberg’s model. Still although not seen, the trend in the stages in Eisenberg’s model also suggests the trend of morality development in Kohlberg’s model. It can be said that they have the same trend or pattern in the development of human morality and reasoning.

Although the two models are considered to be different and the one (Eisenberg’s model) is known to had been developed in contrast to Kohlberg’s model, there are still some similarities that can be found in the two models. As an individual get into a higher stage, they develop and become more mature. In both model, the stages grows from being a reason of a child to the reason of a man, having his or her own sets of belief and driven by his or her own set/sets of value/values that are important in their own perspective in defining what is right from what is wrong, what is and not to be done.

            It can also be seen that there are some stages that can be found in Eisenberg’s model that seems to have an equal or a similar stage in Kohlberg’s model. Both model is consist of a stage wherein the selfishness of a child is shown and can be seen in his or her reasoning. In this stage, the main focus of reasoning and notion of what is good and what is bad is based on that person’s needs and wants. Good things are considered because it favors the person and vice versa.

            Another stage that can be seen in both models is the stage wherein the person reasons and acts because he or she is driven by the desire of approval. They perceive the goodness of a certain action based on the approval of those that surrounds them. They desire to be good and win the approval and respect of those within their area. Goodness is based on what is approved by men and the other way around.

            The other last stages of Eisenberg’s model and that of Kohlberg’s also have some similarities. Both suggest that there is a stage that is rare to be seen and that not all reaches that particular stage or reasoning. This stage shows that social awareness of the person and as well as his or her developed social values. It also requires the involvement of society and that person’s awareness of societal issues, ethics, rules and morality that is accepted by the society. It involves not just the personal wants and needs of an individual but as well as the [protection of his or her morality and dignity. The benefit of the whole society over his or her benefit is also a characteristic of this stage. The person can be said a well and morally disciplined individual upon reaching this stage.

            The main difference in the two models is that, Kohlberg’s model is said to reflect a liberal political bias. Stage 4 of Kohlberg’s model seems to reflect reasoning that of conservative politics while stage 5 is more of a liberals view and position. Kohlberg’s model seems to show bias over liberal points view. It seems like the model suggest that liberals are considered to be morally advanced over the conservatives. For this reason, Eisenberg created a new model in the purpose of illuminating this bias.

            Still, these are just theories and models made in order to predict the behavior and the development of human reasoning. There is no absolute theory in the field that can be considered true for all. There are several factors to be considered which means that there will never be an absolute theory that is applicable to everyone, no model can really predict the stages of development of one’s morality and reasoning because everyone of us are different.


The McGraw-Hill Companies (1997). Lecture Topics. Retrieved November 22, 2007

            from http://www.mhhe.com/socscience/devel/kid-c/resources/1-lecture/l-14.htm


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