Conventional Morality ( A Comprehensive Guide)

Moral reasoning is predominantly subjective and dependent on the context. Most individuals hold moral standards that are commonly found in consistency with social norms.

This is known as Conventional Morality. In spite of morality’s characteristically tricky nature, researchers have been attempting to nail down what goes into moral conduct for a considerable length of time.

Lawrence Kohlberg was one of the first to do so.

We will discuss here briefly about the Moral development theory proposed by Kohlberg and explain the Conventional Morality stage in detail.

Theory of Moral Development

Morality is defined as recognition of the differentiation among right and wrong or among good and bad, respect for and compliance to the principles of right behavior, the psychological trait for behaving in a way proposed to bring great outcomes.

Lawrence Kohlberg was an American Psychologist during the 1950s, who had a particularly strong research interest for why individuals shaped the moral convictions that they did.

Lawrence Kohlberg developed the previous work of cognitive psychologist Jean Piaget to clarify the development of moral beliefs of children.

Kohlberg accepted that moral development follows a progression of stages.

He utilized the concept of moral dilemmas that present contradictory thoughts regarding two moral beliefs to educate boys aging 10 to 16 years about ethical values and morality.

The most popular Heinz dilemma was made by Kohlberg which talks about complying with the law as opposed to saving an individual’s life.

Kohlberg emphasized that it is the way an individual gives an explanation about a dilemma that depicts good ethical or moral development. 

Subsequent to giving different moral dilemmas to individuals, Kohlberg checked on individuals’ reactions and set them in various phases of moral development.

As per Kohlberg, an individual advances from the capacity with regards to Pre-Conventional Morality to the limit with respect to Conventional Morality and toward accomplishing Post-Conventional Morality.

Each stage of moral development contains two levels, which give the foundation to moral development in different contexts.

Each stage is related with progressively complex levels of morality.

Stages of Moral Development

Stage 1: Preconventional Morality

All through the Preconventional level (9 years old and above) children moral development is controlled by external factors.

Children acknowledge and accept the guidelines of authority figures, for example, guardians, parents and teachers etc.

A child in the stage of Preconventional morality has not yet received or disguised society’s standards in regards to what is correct or wrong, however rather centers to a great extent on the outcomes that specific behaviors may bring.

At the pre-conventional level we don’t have an individual code of moral principles.

Rather, our ethical code is formed by the principles of authority figures and the results of adhering to or disrupting their norms.

Authority is external to the individual and thinking depends on the physical outcomes of activities. Individuals with a pre-conventional morality are probably going to litter at concerts.

They won’t be rebuffed for littering, and they won’t be appreciated for discarding their rubbish either.

This stage includes further two levels: 

Level 1: Obedience and Punishment

The child is acceptable so as to abstain from being punished.

On the off chance that an individual is punished then they probably have done something wrong.

Level 2: Independence and Exchange

At this level, a child perceives that there isn’t only one right view that is passed on by the authority figures.

Various people have various perspectives.

Stage 2: Conventional Morality

Conventional morality (adolescence to young adults phase) is the second of three stages of moral development in Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development, where individuals have disguised the guidelines and requirements for those nearest to them and by and large make moral decisions dependent on the standards and requirements of their authority figures (parents, siblings, teachers, society and so on.)

It is a cognitive developmental way to deal with moral reasoning that portrays six invariant, successive, general, and logically complex basic levels of moral development over life expectancy.

Kohlberg’s perspective of moral reasoning proposes that as individuals develop psychologically, they build up an inexorably multifaceted and comprehensive perspective on who ought to have justice. 

Individuals in the conventional morality stage submit to society’s principles and think about those guidelines to characterize good and bad.

The stage of conventional morality follows the stage of preconventional morality. This stage is portrayed by an understanding and abiding on societal or cultural laws, standards, and rules.

Now, people begin acting like grown-ups. The viewpoints of others start to become more important. 

The sense of morality originates from the general public one lives in.

Keeping up that society and acting ethically are one in the equivalent. Kohlberg stated that a great number of people settle at this stage.

After an individual advances through the stage of preconventional morality, they start understanding and conforming to the social meaning of morality. Conventional morality is where most teenagers and young adults frame their ethical behavior.

While pre-conventional morality is totally centered around oneself, conventional morality comprehends the significance of others and the essential standards of justice, decency, and respect.

People comprehend that they are a part of a bigger society and that society has built up qualities, standards, and convictions that should direct a good sense of morality.

At the conventional morality stage (most teenagers and young adults), we start to follow the ethical guidelines of our role models.

Authority is disguised yet not addressed, and beliefs depend on the standards of the society to which the individual belongs.

While conventional morality is centered around decision making on moral standards there are two levels which have slightly different viewpoints.

Level 3: Conformity or Good Boy/Nice Girl Orientation

The individual is acceptable so as to be viewed just like a decent individual by others. In this manner, answers identify with the approval of others.

This level of conventional morality is named as conformity with social standards and values.

People in level one comprehend there are a lot of rules set by society and that the good thing is obey those guidelines and behave according to them.

They need to be good since society has instructed them that being good will be acceptable, and to make that simpler, society has characterized what moral practices are generally significant.

All through the conventional morality stage an individual’s morality is bound to individual and social relationships. 

Adolescents keep on following the guidelines of society.

However this is presently because of their belief this is important to guarantee positive connections.

Adherence to principles and rules is inflexible during these levels.

 In this level individuals need the acceptance of others and behave in ways to keep away from rejection.

They focus on acceptable behavior and individuals being decent to other people.

People judge actions based on how closely behaviors comply with acknowledged standards of conduct, and what is viewed as proper or is affirmed of by others.

The reasoning here is as yet self centered.  Individuals at this level comprehend that being good with others prompts positive consequences for them.

Since individuals at this level comprehend moral values as something determined by the agreement of others, they show such behaviors that cause them to show up good to other people. 

Level 4: Law and Order/ Authority Orientation

The individual gets mindful of the more established guidelines of society, so decisions concern complying with the standards so as to maintain the law and to evade blame.

People judge activities based on their adherence to rules and standards, and to the extent that they keep up the social values or ethics.

At this level, there is complying for standards, principles and social values.

Individuals in adolescence years to young adulthood are generally included in this stage of moral development. 

In the past levels, individuals acted well so as to be seen good and to be dealt with well consequently.

This next stage speaks to something of a jump forward. Instead of seeing things in a totally self-centered light, an individual at this level of moral reasoning understands the significance of obeying laws and social standards with the end goal for society to keep on working.

The principal inspiration here is to keep society running. If one individual disobeys the law, possibly everyone will do as such, eventually ruining the society.

To a degree, this is as yet self-centered.

However this style of reasoning recognizes that every other person’s conduct influences one’s own life. 

In this level the individual aimlessly acknowledges rules and standards due to their significance in keeping up a working society.

Rules are viewed just like the equivalent for everybody. Obeying rules by doing what one is expected to do is viewed as important and noteworthy.

Moral development in this level is above the requirement for others approval as shown at the third level.

In the event that one individual disobeys a law, maybe everybody would do that.

Therefore there is a commitment and an obligation to maintain laws and rules. 

Stage 3: Post-Conventional Morality

All through the post-conventional morality stage, an individual’s morality is characterized by increasingly conceptual or abstract standards and norms.

Individuals presently accept that a few laws are despicable and ought to be changed or dispensed with.

This level is set apart by a developing acknowledgment that people are independent individuals from society and that people may resist rules conflicting with their own standards.

People at the post-conventional morality stage have their own moral standards which include fundamental human rights of life, freedom, and justice.

They view principles as valuable but alterable.

A few researchers have theorized that numerous individuals may never achieve this stage of post-conventional morality.

Level 5: Social and Individual Rights

The individuals at this level become mindful that social norms and rules exist to benefit the society at large but they also have the right to stand for individual rights.

Level 6: Universal Standards

Individuals have their own moral standards which they want to follow.

These standards may or may not according to the universal standards.


Kohlberg proposed a theory of moral development which included three main stages: Preconventional morality, conventional morality and post-conventional morality.

The main objective of this article was to describe the Conventional morality in detail.

Conventional morality is defined as to follow and accept society’s principles and think about those guidelines to characterize good and bad.

This stage is characterized by an understanding and abiding on societal or cultural laws, standards, and rules.

The viewpoints of others start to become more important. 

FAQs about conventional morality 

What age is conventional morality?

Kohlberg identified that the conventional morality stage develops during adolescence years to young adulthood.

What are the 6 stages of moral development by Kohlberg?

The six levels are grouped into three stages: 

Stage 1: Preconventional morality: (Level 1: Obedience and Punishment, Level 2: Independence and Exchange)
Stage 2: Conventional Morality:
(Level 3: Conformity, Level 4: Law and Order/ Authority Orientation)

Stage 3: Post-conventional morality: (Level 5: Social and Individual Rights, Level 6: Universal Standards)


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