The writings of Lawrence Kohlberg (1969) often provide a background for current character and moral education. Kohlberg delineated six stages of moral development that are followed throughout life, consisting of three levels which each contain two stages of moral development.
Level I, the Preconventional Level, occurs when moral judgments are established by the avoidance of pain or prospects of reward. Under this level are
Stage 1, Punishment/Obedience, and Stage 2, Instrumental Relativism.
Level II, the Conventional Level, occurs when moral judgments are based on belonging to a group.
Stage 3, Interpersonal Concordance, and Stage 4, Law and Order.
Level III, the Postconventional Level, occurs when moral judgments are based on an individual’s system of values. This system is based on universal ideals of empathy and justice.
Stage 5, when social contract is the basis of judgments, and Stage 6, when universal ethical principals are the basis of judgments.
Stage theories of moral development provide a means for classifying moral maturity. This is an important way of assessing moral or character development that may result from educational programs. The change in the stage of moral reasoning is the dependent measure used in this study.