Kohlberg’s stages of moral reasoning show a developmental progression toward greater concern for universal rights and abstract ethical principles, though men and women development differs. Women progress toward a broader sense of responsibility and compassion, while men progress toward greater devotion to abstract principles based on equal rights.
Erikson’s interpretation of development has fared better than Freud’s, perhaps because Erikson’s ideas, though arising from Freudian theory, are more comprehensive, contemporary, and apply to a wider range of behavior. Most of the sources of Erikson’s theory are, like Freud’s grounded in his own experiences, the recollections of his patients in therapy, and his insights from literature, film, and historical circumstances.
Erikson’s theory views personality formation as a lifelong process. Success at one stage (say, an infant gaining trust) prepares us for meeting the next challenge.
“One problem with this model is that not everyone confronts these challenges in the exact order presented by Erikson.” Nor is it clear that failure to meet a challenge at one stage of life means that a person is doomed to fail later on. A broader question, would be in a discussion of Piaget’s ideas, is whether people in other cultures and at other times in history would define a successful life in the same terms as Erikson.
Erikson’s model helps us make sense of socialization and points out how the family, school, and other settings shape us.
Like the work of Piaget, Kohlberg’s model explains moral development in terms of distinct stages. Whether this model applies to people in all societies in the United States apparently never reach the post conventional level of moral reasoning, although exactly why is still an open question.
Building on Piaget’s theories and research, Kohlberg studied the development of moral reasoning by presenting children, adolescents, and adults with a set of hypothetical stories that pose ethical dilemmas. The stories were carefully designed to allow Kohlberg to examine how children conceived and reasoned about dilemmas that involved, among other things, the conflict between property rights and human need, and the value of human life.
The most famous of these stories involves Heinz, a poor individual whose wife is dying of cancer. A local pharmacist has recently developed the only drug that can cure the disease but is charging thousands of dollars for it, far more than Heinz can pay and ten times what the drug costs to make:
“Heinz went to everyone he knew to borrow the money, but he could only get together about 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. Bu the druggist said “no.” The husband got desperate and broke into the man’s store to steal the drug for his wife. Should the husband have done that? Why?”
Examining the responses to such dilemmas, Kohlberg found three levels of moral reasoning: preconventional, conventional, and post conventional-with two stages at each level. According to Kohlberg, how people reason morally, rather than what specific moral conclusions they reach, determines their stage of moral development.
As I begin to analyze my life stage by stage according to Erikson’s developmental theory, several life experiences I have encountered are made clear as to the reasoning each stage took place throughout my life.
An analysis of my life according to Erikson’s eight stages of development:
Stage 1 Infancy: the challenge of trust (versus mistrust).-At the beginning stage in my life, I was born on July 6, 1966, weighing somewhere in the area of 7-8lbs at birth. I began walking at eight months of age, according to my mother. I would say I began the trust stage with my mother, who provided me with food, warmth, and the comfort of physical closeness. My mother was a single parent when she gave birth to me, which provided her with a lot of one on one time with me. My maternal grandmother was a major influence in my developing trust with my caregivers as well, she would babysit me while my mother went to work, needless to say I spent a lot of time with her.
Stage 2 Toddlerhood: the challenge of autonomy (versus doubt and shame).—Excessive restriction or criticism at this second stage may lead instead to self-doubts, while demands beyond the child’s ability, as in to too-early or too-sever demands for toilet training, can discourage efforts to persevere in mastering new tasks. At this stage in life, I was the two-year-old who insisted that a particular ritual be followed precisely or demands the right to do something without help is acting out of a need to affirm autonomy and adequacy. The message I constantly communicated was: “Don’t treat me like a baby-unless I ask to be!”
Stage 3 Preschool: the challenge of initiative (versus guilt).-Being as though my mother spent a lot of time with me, I was educated in Preschool ages with my mother and the old famous “Sesame Street” show. I began learning how a person could initiate both intellectual and motor activities.
Stage 4 Pre-adolescence: the challenge of industriousness (versus inferiority).-Some youngsters in this stage, become spectators rather than performers or experience enough failure to give them a sense of inferiority, leaving them handicapped for meeting the demands of the next life stages. I can remember this stage in my life, where I was enrolled in Baton class, I wanted to be like the girls on television and be able to throw and catch a baton from the sky. I can also remember during this stage when my mother was very involved in volunteer organizations, such as, The March of Dimes, The Leukemia Foundation, The Sickle Cell Foundation, Breast Cancer Awareness. During this time, my mother would take me with her doing fundraisers, for these different organizations. I can remember the bake sales, the walk-a-thons, the door to door campaigning.
Stage 5 Adolescence: the challenge of gaining identity (versus confusion).-In our society, most young adolescents live at home, are financially and emotionally dependent on their parents, and follow a structured schedule revolving around school and organized group activities often supervised by adults. During this stage, family ties become less intense as more time is spent outside the home. During this stage of my life, I was very involved in activities such as the band, I really enjoyed this time, because I got to travel a lot, see places I had never been before. I also won a trophy in a National Competition for second place in a Business Tournament, for Shorthand @ 90wpm. This was amazing for me, due to the fact I had never won anything before in my life, and our school was in competition with schools from everywhere. I also learned how to play the clarinet, drums, xylophone, cymbals, and the tuba while being in the band. I was even involved with the volleyball team, and played softball for leisure.
Stage 6 Young Adulthood: the challenge of intimacy (versus isolation)—In this stage the young person can now see things from another’s point of view and behave differently in different situations according to what is seen as socially appropriate. This was an enjoying stage, due to being able to attend Sweetheart Balls, Junior and Senior Prom. I was also active in the high school sorority for females; I was able to travel to Chicago, to meet other teens from all across the world. During this stage was also when I flew on a airplane for the first time in my life. I also remember my Aunt and Uncle from New York sending for me to spend the summer with them in Queens, New York. The summer I spent in New York was an awesome adventure for me, I learned a lot about things, that I would not have been exposed to being from a small town in Alabama. My Aunt and my Uncle, traveled a lot, so I was fortunate enough to be able to go on a trip with them across twelve states in a car ride. This was like a life changing event for me, I had never traveled so much in my life. I was also blessed with two beautiful daughters during this stage, and was able to see life in a whole different perspective. Having children will definitely make you see life and the world in a different light, you began to get priorities in order more than ever. Began to think about the future and welfare of your children, rather than focusing on self at all times.
Stage 7 Middle adulthood: the challenge of making a difference (versus self-absorption)-”The stage where work is most crucial.” The challenge of middle age is to contribute to the lives of others in the family, at work, and in the larger world. Failing at this, people stagnate, trapped in their own limited concerns. During this stage I started a business of helping others, a Drug and Alcohol Treatment Facility. With a lot of hard work, and lots of prayers, the business took off the ground like a “missile.” Working in the field of addiction always has its ups and downs, but it is a rewarding business, due to being able to see changes in people right before your very eyes. I also finished school, received a Bachelors Degree, and went on to several other colleges, where I received a Master’s as well as a Doctorate in Psychology, from online colleges. During this stage I have been able to travel, take my children traveling to places we have all been able share memories together. I also made the decision to re-enter college and seek a Master’s Degree at Capella, to seek Licensure as a Counselor and Registered Play Therapist.
Stage 8 Old age: Late Adulthood: the challenge of integrity (versus despair)-Near the end of their lives, Erikson explains, people hope to look back on what they have accomplished with a sense of integrity and satisfaction. For those who have been self-absorbed, old age brings only a sense of despair over missed opportunities. I have not yet made it to this stage, but prayerfully I will have accomplished the majority of my dreams, goals by the time I make it to this stage.
Kohlberg’s stages of development are biased against females. The best-known expression of this position has come from Carol Gilligan. According to Gilligan, girls and women tend to see moral dilemmas differently than boys and men do. In general, the characteristic male approach seems to be “Do not interfere with the rights of others;” the female approach, on the other hand, seems to be “Be concerned with the needs of others.” Females give greater consideration to the context of moral choices, focusing on the human relationships involved. Gilligan contends that women are reluctant to judge right and wrong in absolute terms because they socialized to be nurturing, caring, and nonjudgmental.
While they are developing more refined skills of moral judgment, children are also becoming more aware of the social conventions of the larger society. They are realizing, in other words, that society is governed not only by moral values concerning honesty, obeying the law, and altruism, but also by customs concerning modes of dress, appropriate ways of eating, and suitable behavior in public places. This is shown in a series of studies by Elliot Turiel, who found that school-age children not only understand social conventions and moral values but can also distinguish between them.